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Spratlys > News > English News > December 2000

Category: @News

China, Vietnam Sidestep Thorny Spratly Dispute

BEIJING, Dec 26, 2000 -- (Reuters)

China and Vietnam have sidestepped thorny disputes over South China Sea islands during a visit by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong hailed as a success by both sides, a government spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

On Monday Luong and Chinese President Jiang Zemin signed agreements settling a long-standing border dispute in the Tonkin Gulf, known in China as Beibu Bay.

Both sides praised the accords as new evidence of warmth between the countries which fought a brief but bloody border war in 1979.

But foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the two sides did not discuss the Spratly and Paracel islands, more complex and potentially explosive problems.

"As far as I understand, the two sides did not touch on the question of the South China Sea islands," Zhang told reporters at a briefing.

Hanoi and Beijing both lay claim to the potentially oil-rich archipelagos, also contested wholly or in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

However, in an apparent reference to the islands, a joint statement issued on Monday said the two sides "agree to maintain the existing negotiation mechanism on the marine issue".

Beijing and Hanoi would "persist in seeking a fundamental and everlasting solution acceptable to both sides through peaceful negotiations," the statement said.

China and Vietnam also signed cooperative agreements on education, trade, science and technology and nuclear energy.

"Not only will the agreements ensure the long-term stability of Beibu Bay, but also ensure China and Vietnam develop long-term stable relations," Zhang said.


Zhang praised Luong's visit for producing "many results".

Luong was quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency as saying the accords "formed a solid foundation for the all-round development of bilateral relations".

"The two countries have celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and bilateral relations are now in a sound stage of development," Luong was quoted as saying.

The Tonkin Gulf agreements cap years of negotiations and include the demarcation of territorial waters and the exclusive economic zones of the two sides, and an agreement on fishing. They follow a historic land-border agreement between the two sides last year.

That agreement covered 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of shared border, including 70 areas that had been in dispute since the 1979 war.

During the war, Chinese troops poured south into Vietnam to punish Hanoi for toppling the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, at the time was a China ally. The conflict inflicted heavy casualties on both sides.

Luong, on a five-day trip to China, is scheduled to leave Beijing on Wednesday to visit the coastal boomtowns of Shanghai and Xiamen.