Battle of the Paracel Islands

China under Mao

China 1974.0119

Battle of the Paracel Islands

China under Mao (19 January 1974)

Historical Map of China, Mongolia, & Korea

The 1969 Sino-Soviet conflict encouraged the United States to improve relations with the People's Republic of China, leading to the United Nations recognition of the PRC and expulsion of Nationalist China (Taiwan) in 1971. Emboldened by this and the end of US involvement in Vietnam, China seized the disputed Paracel Islands from South Vietnam in 1974, the first of its moves to assert its claims to the islands of the South China Sea.

Main Events

Bangladeshi Liberation War

In response to the Pakistani junta's oppressive and genocidal rule, East Pakistan declared independence as the nation of Bangladesh (often also called 'Bangla Desh' at the time). On 3 December, India entered the war in support of the Bangladeshi guerrilla forces, rapidly bringing the conflict to a close and leading the Pakistanis to surrender in Dhaka. At the cost of as many as three million civilian deaths, Bangladesh was independent.

U.N. Resolution 2758

Following US President Nixon's July 1971 declaration that he would visit the People's Republic of China, the United Nations passed United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, recognizing the People's Republic as "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations". In the same motion, the Republic of China (Taiwan) was expelled from the UN.

Nixon visit to China

United States President Richard Nixon visited the People's Republic of China, ending over 24 years of separation between the two states and allowing the American public to see images of mainland China for the first time in a generation. The trip shifted the balance in the Cold War, aligning the PRC and the US against the Soviet Union. As a result of the visit, the PRC agreed to a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question, although the US would not end official ties with the Nationalists in Taiwan until it established full diplomatic relations with China in 1979.

Ryukyu Islands restored

After a formal agreement reached on 17 June 1971, the United States ended its Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands and restored sovereignty over the island chain to Japan. By this action, the US relinquished control over the last piece of Japanese territory it had occupied following World War II. The US would continue to maintain military bases in Japan, in particular the main Ryukyu island of Okinawa.

Paris Peace Accords

The United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (Viet Cong) signed the Paris Peace Accords. This treaty established a ceasefire in Vietnam, allowing the US to withdraw and end its direct military involvement in the conflict there. The accords also pushed for a negotiated peaceful reunification of Vietnam and democratic elections, although this agreement would soon fall apart as North and South Vietnam resumed fighting.

Battle of the Paracel Islands

A South Vietnamese patrol inspecting the disputed Paracel Islands discovered the Chinese had occupied Drummond Island, prompting both sides to send forces to the islands. On 19 January, South Vietnamese soldiers landing on Duncan Island were repelled by Chinese troops, with opposing support warships fighting a naval battle later that morning. The next day, the Chinese bombed the islands and landed more troops, forcing the remaining South Vietnamese garrison to surrender.

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