China and Vietnam have pledged to turn border areas (1350 km in length) with longstanding disputes into showcases of economic growth and jointly explore oil-rich offshore areas during a visit by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Beijing.
Top on the Sino-Viet agenda is their bitter disagreement over the Spratly islands in the South China Sea which have oil and gas potential and also the ownership of the Paracel islands currently occupied by China. The other claimants to these strategic rocky outcrops are Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Both sides agreed to start a joint survey in the waters outside the mouth of Beibu Bay (Gulf of Tonkin) and gradually advance the negotiations on demarcation of these maritime zones to jointly exploit the zones. This also serves to prevent clashes between both navies of fishing vessels in the gulf of Tonkin.
More specifically, both sides are looking to collaborate on oceanic research, environmental protection, meteorological and hydrological forecasts, oil exploration and information exchanges by the two armed forces.
Details on the hot issue of ownership the Spratlys is however vague in details. But the data and information released so far is already an achievement by itself given the history of this difficult dispute between the two countries as Chinese naval ships have clashed with Vietnamese fishing boats before, incurring Vietnamese wrath amongst its people.
This is an important step in the direction of confidence-building measures (CBMs). It reverses recent rising of temperatures between Hanoi and Beijing over this issue. Just this year in 2008, a potential flashpoint occurred when Beijing angered Hanoi by warning US oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp that it would be barred from operating in China unless it pulled out of a joint exploration deal with Vietnam.
Other Sino-Viet energy deals are expected to follow from this rapprochement. Dung and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao signed a pact between state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp and PetroVietnam.
Infrastructure projects are also on the table. North Vietnam and its Haiphong seaport will be linked by new road and rail to Yunnan and Guangxi Chinese provinces, augmenting yearly annual bilateral trade to a targeted 25 billion dollars by 2010 from 16 billion dollars in 2007. Dung visited China's southernmost Hainan province to foster closer shipping links with Vietnam and seal a 200-million-dollar joint industrial zone in Haiphong and a light-rail project in the capital Hanoi.
AFP, "China, Vietnam pledge to settle disputed borders, boost trade " in the AFP Google website dated 27 Oct 2008 [downloaded on 27 Oct 2008], available athttp://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jk73dtUD-8TzlIW366DQg6-hgjCQ
Channelnewasia "China, Vietnam pledge to settle disputed borders, boost trade" dated 27 October 2008 in the Channelnewasia website [downloaded on 27 Oct 2008], available at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/385497/1/.ht...