A screenshot of the original post on US Embassy in Hanoi showing a map of Vietnam with two archipelagos Hoang Sa and Truong Sa before they were removed. — Facebook capture

Questioned on the US Embassy in Hanoi's edits to a map of Viet Nam on its Facebook post to no longer show the two island chains as part of Vietnamese territory, the spokesperson in a press briefing on Thursday remarked that the two chains are an "integral, inseparable part of Viet Nam's territory".

Viet Nam has sufficient legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the two archipelagos in the East Sea (known internationally as the South China Sea), the spokeswoman said, adding that its consistent stance has been expressed many times, including at the UN and has received support and respect from many countries.

Earlier on September 9, to mark the opening of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, the US Embassy in Hanoi posted a review of 25 years of US-Viet Nam partnership that included two graphics, including a map of Viet Nam that originally had the Spratlys and the Paracels.

 

The post's graphics were later amended to no longer contain the two island chains, and the embassy has not explained or commented on the changes.

The Paracels, claimed by both Viet Nam and China, are currently under Chinese control after it was seized by force from Viet Nam in 1974. Meanwhile, the Spratlys are claimed and occupied – in entirety or parts – by Viet Nam, China, Malaysia, Philippines, and China's Taiwan.

The US has been a vocal opponent and challenger to China's expansive claims and China's aggression and bullying against other claimants in the South China Sea.

In the ASEAN meeting with its partners, Chinese and American foreign ministers, Wang Yi and Mike Pompeo traded barbs over who is at fault for escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, while ASEAN countries stressed that they did not want to "take a side" between either major power. — VNS