August 22, 2006

China, Vietnam set 2008 for border agreement

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and its southern neighbor Vietnam
have agreed to finish demarking their border by 2008, a state
newspaper said on Wednesday, a contentious area that has been
the cause of military conflict.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, meeting Vietnam's Communist
Party chief Nong Duc Manh in Beijing, said China was also
willing to discuss a disputed maritime area where the two
countries' navies have clashed in the past.

"Vietnam and China agreed ... to handle the border issue
properly and on the basis of friendly consultation so that the
demarcation can be completed in 2008," the China Daily said.

"China is ready to work with the Vietnamese side to speed
up surveying and determining the land boundary, and steadily
push for the demarcation of sea territory outside the Beibu
Gulf and negotiations on the common development of the area,"
it added.

Beibu Gulf is the Chinese name for the Gulf of Tonkin, an
area of sea between northern Vietnam, southern China and the
Chinese island province of Hainan.

China supported the Vietnamese Communists in their
decades-long war against South Vietnam and its U.S. sponsors.

But Vietnam has traditionally been wary of its larger Asian
neighbor, and in 1979 the two countries fought a brief border
war after Vietnam occupied Cambodia and overthrew the murderous
Khmer Rouge regime that favored Beijing.

Beijing and Hanoi normalized relations in 1991.

The two countries continue to quarrel over the Spratly
Islands, a string of rocky outcrops in the South China Sea also
claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Another set of islets further north of the Spratly group,
the Paracel Islands, were seized by China in 1974 and have been
occupied by them ever since despite Vietnamese protests.