Vietnam Says Agreement Close with China on Tonkin Gulf Border

Published December 16th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Vietnam and China are close to agreement on the demarcation of their disputed sea border in the Gulf of Tonkin after a fresh round of talks here this week, the official media said Saturday. 

"Vietnam and China have basically completed the substantial issues" and are on course to meet an end of the month deadline for agreement, the official VNA news agency said. 

In the three days of talks which closed here Thursday, Vietnamese chief negotiator Le Cong Phung and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi "discussed concrete measures with a view to signing an agreement ... within this year as agreed by their top leaders." 

Wang was "warmly received" by Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien on Friday, the news agency said. 

Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong is due to travel to China on December 24 for a five-day visit, although Vietnamese officials have so far declined to confirm that he is due to sign the agreement. 

Talks between the two communist rivals on their Gulf of Tonkin sea border have dragged on since 1993. 

Last December, the two sides finally reached a landmark agreement on their disputed land border, 20 years after fighting a brief but bloody war in the wake of Vietnam's 1978 invasion of Cambodia. 

Even after agreement has been reached on the Gulf of Tonkin, the two sides will remain at odds over two archipelagos in the South China Sea where they have fought as recently as the late 1980s. 

Vietnam and its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been holding talks with China on a proposed code of conduct for the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands, so far without success. 

Beijing holds all of the Paracels but control of the Spratlys is split between no less than five governments. 

According to a 1996 paper setting out Hanoi's territorial claim, Vietnam controls 20 of the islets, the Philippines eight, China six, Malaysia three and Taiwan one. 

Brunei also lays claim to part of the archipelago which is hotly contested because of its strategic position on the trade route between northeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and the oil reserves which are believed to lie beneath it -- HANOI (AFP) 



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