Vietnam protests planned Taiwanese Spratlys visit

Hanoi – Vietnam’s government has asked Taiwan to call off a planned inspection tour of the disputed Spratly Islands, one of two archipelagos in the South China sea claimed by several countries in the region, local press reported Tuesday.

‘Vietnam resolutely objects to all activities violating its sovereignty over the two archipelagos,’ government spokesman Le Dung said.

Taiwanese Defence Minister Tsai Ming-hsien was scheduled to visit the Spratlys on Monday before postponing the trip due to bad weather.

Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each claim all or part of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and all but Brunei have a military presence on one or more of the atolls. Taiwan has built an airstrip on the largest of the islands, while Vietnam has stationed sailors on another.

The waters around the islands are believed to contain substantial petroleum reserves.

Conflict over the islands began heating up in November, when China established a new government district, called Sansha, to administer them. Vietnam officially protested the Chinese move, and Vietnamese students staged rare spontaneous protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City asserting Vietnamese sovereignty.

To avoid military clashes in the region, China, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The declaration commits the parties to resolving the islands’ status through negotiations, and provides for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Taiwan is not a signatory to the declaration because China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has barred Taiwan from attending official meetings on the Spratlys.

EV71 virus has caused deaths in Vietnam: health official

5 May 2008

HANOI (AFP) — A virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease has infected around 400 people in Vietnam this year and led to an unknown number of deaths, a health official in the communist country said Tuesday.

No precise data on cases and fatalities was available because enterovirus 71 or EV71 is not a notifiable disease in Vietnam, said Nguyen Huy Nga, head of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Department.

A boy suspected of being infected with the deadly enterovirus 71 (EV71)

The intestinal virus, which hits children hardest because of their weaker immune system, has killed at least 26 children in neighbouring China and infected thousands more, raising fears it could spread across the region.

“Vietnam has had about 2,000 cases of hand, food and mouth disease this year, of which about 20 percent were caused by EV71,” Nga told AFP, saying 90 percent of cases were in southern Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh City.

“There were some deaths involving the virus but we have no specific figure.”

He said “children under 10 are the group most vulnerable to this disease.”

The senior epidemiologist of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vietnam, Dr Sean Tobin, said there was “no obvious association between the cases in China and those in Vietnam.”

“As this is not a notifiable disease, there is no formal collection of data and no clear picture of the numbers in Vietnam,” he said. “But reports from local health officials suggest that the number and severity of cases this year is higher.”

Tobin said “the disease is recognized as an increasing public health problem” in Vietnam and added that local health authorities had asked the WHO for help “to determine options for monitoring and control.”

EV71, which begins with fever, blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes, is highly contagious and spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person.

Source: AFP