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Spratlys > News > English News > Sept 2002

Category: @News

Vietnam publishes China border agreement without fanfare

AFP - Monday September 16, 3:45 PM 2002

HANOI (AFP) - Vietnam has published the details of its 1999 land border agreement with communist rival China, breaking its silence over a treaty that has drawn much flak at home for acceding too many territorial concessions.

The agreement, signed in December 1999, more than 20 years after their brief but bloody border war in 1979, was reproduced on the website of the Communist Party mouthpiece, the Nhan Dan (People).

"It was first published on August 29 after the editors instructed us to put it on the page," a journalist at the newspaper's online edition said Monday, requesting anonymity.

Its publication has received no publicity in the print edition of the daily nor among other state-controlled newspapers.

However, the English-language Vietnam News ran a lengthy interview on its front page Monday with Deputy Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung, in which he dismissed criticism from "reactionary forces and political opportunists" that Hanoi had ceded large tracts of land to China.

No mention was made of the treaty's online publication.

Analysts said the decision to release the text of the agreement was probably taken to appease dissidents who have criticised the authorities for giving up too much land to China and not revealing the details of the treaty.

Senior editors at the Nhan Dan and officials at the Ministry of Culture and Information were not immediately available for comment.

Ideological soulmates but historical rivals, China invaded Vietnam in February 1979, following Hanoi's intervention in Cambodia in December 1978 to oust Beijing's Khmer Rouge allies.

The pair came to blows again in 1988 in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, when nearly 90 Vietnamese sailors were killed during a brief sea battle.

The diplomatic frost thawed in 1991 when they restored official relations. Negotiations kicked off two years later over their disputed boundaries.

However, the land border treaty was only agreed upon after six years of torturous talks, which were complicated by Vietnamese accusations that Chinese troops had moved some 100 border markers during the 1979 conflict.

In December 2000, the two neighbours signed an accord setting out their sea borders in the Gulf of Tonkin, known as Beibu Gulf by the Chinese, but it did not include their conflicting claims to the Spratly and Paracel island chains.