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Spratlys > News > English News > December 2000

Category: @News

China, Hosting Vietnam President, Restates Claim to Disputed Islands


China on Tuesday hailed an ongoing visit by Vietnam's president a "success," while also declaring itself the undisputed master of islands claimed by both countries. On Monday, the first day of a five-day visit by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong, the two countries signed a series of agreements while steering clear of the issue of the disputed Spratley and Paracel islands in the South China Sea.

"China's position on the South China Sea is very clear, that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratley Islands and surrounding waters," foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday at the ministry's regular press briefing.

Not only China and Vietnam, but also Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines lay claim to the Spratleys. China seized the Paracels from Vietnam and now considers them part of the nearby island province of Hainan.

President Luong held talks with his Chinese counterpart on Monday, and on Tuesday went on to meet with Premier Zhu Rongji and Li Peng, chairman of China's national parliament, the Xinhua news agency said.

The Chinese and Vietnamese foreign ministers on Monday signed a joint statement to demarcate their disputed Gulf of Tonkin sea border after years of bitter argument, and reached an agreement on fishery cooperation in the gulf.

"This shows that the two sides will approach their bilateral relations from a strategic perspective," foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang said.

During the first day of Luong's visit, the two sides also signed pacts on the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy and cooperation between their national news agencies.

But the Spratley and Paracel islands, potentially the most divisive issues between the two countries, were not on the agenda, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

"As far as I understand, the two sides have not touched upon the question of the South China Sea," Zhang said.

Chinese and Vietnamese forces clashed in the South China Sea in 1988 and 1992, and on both occasions the Chinese emerged victorious.

Both countries have fielded historical and archeological evidence to support their claims in the disputed waters, and China has produced historical records showing it sent naval expeditions to the Spratleys as early as in 110 A.D.

Luong's visit, his first to China as head of state and the second visit by a Vietnamese president since the two nations normalized relations in 1991, will also take him to the cities of Shanghai and Xiamen.