Southwest Cay

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Southwest Cay Invasion
Date 1975
Location Southwest Cay
Result Vietnamese Capture of Southwest Cay
 Philippines  South Vietnam
Territorial monument of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) on Southwest Cay, Spratly Islands, defining the cay as part of Vietnamese territory (to Phước Tuy Province). Used since 22 August, 1956 until 1975, when replaced by another one from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (successor state after the Fall of Saigon)

Southwest Cay (Chinese: 南子岛; pinyin: Nanzi Dao; Tagalog: Pugad; Vietnamese: Đảo Song Tử Tây) is an islet in the northern edge of Spratly Islands in South China Sea. It is part of North Danger Reef, and just 1.75 miles from Northeast Cay. With an area of 12 hectares, it is the sixth largest Spratly island and the second largest among the Vietnamese-occupied Spratly islands. The island is also claimed by the People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Philippines.

Southwest Cay holds the archipelago's highest point, at 4 meters above sea level; was once a breeding place for birds and covered with trees and guano. Export of guano had been carried out "on a considerable scale."[1]


In 1933, the French Government took official possession of the Spratly islands including North East Cay and South West Cay. Three ships, the Alerte, the Astrobale and the De Lanessan took part in the expedition. The following quotations are from an account given by H. Cucherousset in L'Eveil economique de l'Indochine (No. 790 of May 28, 1933):

”Further north still, at the level of Nhatrang, is the atoll named "North Danger", the Alerte took possession of two sandy islands (cayes) where it found some Japanese fishing. The De Lanessan went there too and explored the little island. The latter is perceptibly higher than the others, the highest point reaching 5 metres. The phosphate beds are considerable and were much exploited by the Japanese. "

After possession had been taken, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the following notice in the French Journal Officiel dated July 26, 1933 (page 7837):

"Notice concerning the occupation of certain islands by French naval units.

The French government has caused the under mentioned isles and islets to be occupied by French naval units:

Group of two islands situated at latitude 111°29' north and longitude 114°21' east of Greenwich, with their dependent isles (36) (Possession taken April 10, 1933).

The above-mentioned isles and islets henceforward come under French sovereignty (this notice cancels the previous notice inserted in the Official Journal dated July 25, 1933, page 7784)."

In 1939, Japan occupied the islands and would remain there until the end of World War II. In 1956, France transferred the islands to South Vietnam.[citation needed]

In 1959, the South Vietnamese Government renamed the Song Tử islands (meaning twins after their resemblance to each other) "Tây" (meaning West) and "Đông" (meaning East) respectively. They were annexed to Phước Tuy Province, South Vietnam. In 1961, the two South Vietnam Navy cruisers, the Van Kiep and the Van Don, landed on the islands of Song Tu Tay (South-West Cay).

On May 24, 1963, the sovereignty steles were rebuilt on Song Tu Dong (North East Cay) and Song Tu Tay (South West Cay) by crew members of the three vessels Huong Giang, Chi Lang and Ky Hoa of South Vietnam.

In 1968, Philippines troops occupied Song Tu Dong (North East Cay, Parola) and Song Tu Tay (Pugad).

Captured by Vietnam[edit]

In 1975, a party was held for the Philippine commanding officer at Northeast Cay. Philippine forces guarding the Southwest Cay attended the party and upon their return, found that the South Vietnamese, who were then allies, had occupied the island in their absence.

Southwest Cay is in the northern edge of the Spratly group. It is within North Danger Reef which also contains the Philippine-occupied Northeast Cay (Parola Island), Vietnamese-occupied South Reef and unoccupied North Reef. Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay are just 1.75 miles (2.82 km) away from each other. Each island can actually see the other within their respective horizons.

The invasion took place when all the Philippine soldiers guarding the island of Pugad left to attend to the birthday party of their commanding officer who is based on nearby Parola Island. The storm that day is also believed to have persuaded all the soldiers to regroup temporarily on Parola island. A report also came out saying that South Vietnamese officials managed to send Vietnamese prostitutes to the birthday party to lure the Filipino soldiers guarding Pugad Island. It was said to be a "present" to the Philippine commander for his birthday and as a move of South Vietnamese forces to befriend all Filipino soldiers guarding the Spratlys. Philippine soldiers did not expect that South Vietnam would resort to foul play since both Philippines and South Vietnam, together with the United States, were allies in the Vietnam War. This tactic is believed to be the reason why South Vietnamese forces knew that the Filipino soldiers left the island, an action that is usually kept confidential.

After the party and after the weather cleared out, the returning soldiers were surprised that a company of South Vietnamese soldiers were already in the island. The South Vietnamese flag replaced the Philippine flag flying in the pole created by Philippine soldiers themselves. The soldiers returned to Parola immediately for fear that Parola would be the next target. After higher-ups of the Philippines were informed about the situation, they instructed the troops based in Parola and Pagasa to stay on red alert status. For the following mornings, the only thing the Filipino soldiers could do in Parola was to "curse" while South Vietnamese sang their national anthem. Malacañang officials, who did not want to compromise the alliance while the Vietnam War was still being fought, decided to remain silent.

A few months later, the recently unified Vietnam (after North Vietnam successfully invaded South Vietnam, the North Vietnam task force won and occupied the island) decided to remove all remaining South Vietnamese troops in the Spratlys and establish military control among the features. It was reported that dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers in Pugad Island swam all the way to Parola just to avoid being captured by North Vietnamese forces. It was then when Malacañang officials, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos, discussed how the Philippines could reclaim the island. It had been apparent that most of the officials (who treat the communists as a threat to the Philippine national security) want to attack Pugad to reclaim it. However, after an intelligence report came stating that the unified Vietnam had already built a huge concrete garrison within a few weeks, the officials dropped the plan and tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. However, this approach eventually died along the process making Pugad a Vietnamese-occupied island up to this day. This incident was confirmed in interviews with soldiers involved in an episode of the defunct Magandang Gabi Bayan of ABS-CBN. Source:

Although the PRC, ROC (Taiwan) and Philippines all claim the island, no clashes have been reported since 1975.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Digital Gazetter of Spratly Islands". Retrieved 2008-03-22. 

Coordinates: 11°26′N 114°20′E / 11.433°N 114.333°E / 11.433; 114.333