China, Vietnam to resolve disputes

Last week Mr Dung and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao oversaw the signing of a strategic cooperation pact between state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp and PetroVietnam. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Last week Mr Dung and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao oversaw the signing of a strategic cooperation pact between state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp and PetroVietnam. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

HANOI – IN a step to resolving long-running disputes, China and Vietnam have pledged to turn contentious border areas into economic growth zones and jointly explore oil-rich offshore areas in the future.

The communist neighbours – who stress their comradely ties but also have a history of distrust and conflict – reached the agreement during a visit by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Beijing, state media said.

Both countries are among claimants to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves, and claim sovereignty over the Paracel islands, which are occupied by China.

During Mr Dung’s visit, which ended on Sunday, Beijing and Hanoi ‘agreed to start a joint survey in the waters outside the mouth of Beibu Bay (Gulf of Tonkin) at an early date,’ China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

They would ‘gradually advance the negotiations on demarcation of these maritime zones and will jointly exploit the zones’, Xinhua said.

The statement did not settle the hot-button issue of the Spratlys, a strategic string of rocky outcrops in the middle of the South China Sea that are also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

But China and Vietnam pledged to ‘collaborate on oceanic research, environmental protection, meteorological and hydrological forecasts, oil exploration and information exchanges by the two armed forces’.

The agreement, although vague on details and timelines, signals a gradual shift in relations between East Asia’s economic giant and the southern neighbour which for many centuries was ruled by China.

The South China Sea dispute – in which Chinese naval vessels have in the past fired on Vietnamese fishing boats – has in particular stirred strong nationalistic sentiments and sparked anti-Beijing street protests in Vietnam.

‘The China-Vietnam joint declaration is a major confidence building measure between two potential protagonists,’ said veteran Vietnam-watcher Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy.

‘The agreement to begin work on demarcating waters outside the Tonkin Gulf will serve to reduce the area where clashes between fishermen and naval vessels are likely to occur,’ he told AFP.

Earlier this year Beijing angered Hanoi when it reportedly warned 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.

Last week Mr Dung and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao oversaw the signing of a strategic cooperation pact between state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp and PetroVietnam, reports said without giving further details.

Both countries also reaffirmed they would complete demarcation of their 1,350-kilometre land border on schedule by the end of this year.

As recently as 1979 China and Vietnam fought a brief border war in the mountainous region when China, having backed Hanoi during the Vietnam war, sought to punish Vietnam for ousting Cambodia’s China-backed Khmer Rouge.

Under both countries’ plans, Vietnam’s north is set to be transformed with industrial projects and new road and rail links that would connect China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces with Vietnam’s Haiphong seaport.

The ‘economic corridors’ – part of a web of highways linking China with Southeast Asia – would help boost annual two-way trade to a targeted US$25 billion (S$37 billion) by 2010 from US$16 billion last year.

Mr Dung also visited China’s Hainan province and proposed closer shipping links with Vietnam. Other deals included a US$200-million joint industrial zone in Haiphong and a light-rail project in the capital Hanoi.

Mr Thayer said the agreement ‘to proceed positively in contentious areas is a positive contribution to peace and security in the region’,

‘Both Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung have demonstrated statesmanship in these troubled times by not letting the rancour of nationalism trump economic development,’ he said. — AFP
Breaking News

China, Vietnam seek sea border resolution this year

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and Vietnam have agreed to find a solution to a festering maritime territorial dispute this year, the two sides said in a joint statement in Beijing.

The two countries dispute sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, a string of rocky outcrops in the South China Sea suspected of containing large oil and gas deposits and also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

They also agreed to consult on finding “a proper area and way of making joint exploration,” the statement said, according to Xinhua news agency.

“The two countries will coordinate more closely to solve the remaining problems, so as to ensure they complete demarcation and erecting land markers along the whole borderline by year end,” Xinhua quoted the joint statement as saying.

China supported the Vietnamese Communists in their decades-long war against South Vietnam and its U.S. sponsors.

But Vietnam has traditionally been wary of its larger Asian neighbor and in 1979 the two countries fought a brief border war after Vietnam occupied Cambodia and overthrew the murderous Khmer Rouge regime that favored Beijing.

Beijing and Hanoi normalized relations in 1991.

In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near one of the Spratly reefs in which more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died.

Another set of islets further north of the Spratly group, the Paracel Islands, were seized by China in 1974 and have been occupied by them ever since despite Vietnamese protests.
In July, China told Exxon Mobil Corp to pull out of an oil exploration deal with Vietnam that it saw as a breach of Chinese sovereignty.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by David Fox)
China, Vietnam seek sea border resolution this year | International | Reuters

Pact signed to set up economic zone in Vietnam

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

China and Vietnam Wednesday signed an agreement to build an economic and trade cooperation zone in Haiphong, the third largest city in the Southeast Asian country.

“]Premier Wen Jiabao welcomes Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 22, 2008. [China Daily]
The zone will be modeled on Shenzhen, China’s first special economic zone and the leading city in its reforms.

The mayors of Shenzhen and Haiphong signed the agreement in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to build the 800-hectare China-Vietnam economic and trade cooperation zone.

The pact was inked after Premier Wen Jiabao held an hour-long meeting with visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The foundation for the zone will be laid in December, and the cost of its infrastructure construction will be about $200 million. More than 170 companies are likely to set up shop there, investing up to $5 billion.

The zone will be divided into two parts, with one for light industries, including apparel and electronics, and the other dedicated to sectors such as logistics.

The idea of setting up such an economic zone was reportedly mooted during President Hu Jintao’s visit to Vietnam in 2006. Later, Shenzhen designated Vietnam as a favored investment destination.

The two sides inked seven other agreements, including one on preferential loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to Vietnam and another on a strategic cooperation between China’s third largest oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corp, and Petro Vietnam. The two sides agreed to set up a hotline, too, linking leaders of the two neighbors.

At his meeting with President Hu Jintao, Dung said his country would follow the spirit of “comrades plus brothers” in seeking a permanent solution to the territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Talks with Danish PM

Hu and Wen held talks with visiting Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, too. The two countries signed two documents of cooperation on technology innovation and to fight climate change.

China’s top leaders will have a busier day today. Hu and Wen will hold up to 15 bilateral meetings with visiting foreign VIPs as world leaders start arriving in Beijing for the two-day 7th Asia-Europe Meeting, which begins on Friday.

Border disputes discussed as Vietnam premier visits China

Hanoi – Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Chinese leaders Wednesday in Beijing to discuss borders and seek to strengthen often-strained ties with China, government officials said. Dung, his wife and a high-ranking government delegation arrived in Beijing Tuesday for his first official visit to China and the seventh Asia-Europe Meeting, which is to be held Friday and Saturday.

Bui Hong Phuc, a former ambassador to China, said the purpose of the visit was to sign an agreement to finish land border demarcation.

Dung also discussed with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao how to deal with Vietnam and China’s dispute over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, Phuc said.

Unlike Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh and President Nguyen Minh Triet, Dung chose the United States for his first outbound trip to boost trade and investment with Vietnam’s former enemy on the battlefield. Trade with the US accounts for up to 20 per cent of the country’s exports while the China market takes 15 per cent.

Last year, Vietnam-China trade increased to more than 15 billion dollars and was expected to hit 21 billion dollars this year.

But Vietnam continues to run a trade deficit with China, which climbed to 3.8 billion dollars in 2006 and 9 billion dollars in 2007. It was predicted to reach 13 billion dollars in 2008.

Vietnam has a close but sometimes strained relationship with its fellow Communist neighbour. China backed Hanoi during its fight for independence and its war with the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, but the two countries fought a bloody border war in 1979 and broke off diplomatic relations until 1991.

The two countries continue to dispute the ownership of the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, whose surrounding waters might contain substantial oil deposits.

Vietnam has sought to balance its relationship with China by cultivating close relations with the US, with which it ran a 12-billion-dollar trade surplus in 2007.

Sources close to the US government said they expected Dung’s trip to show progress on hot-button issues between the two Asian countries and that they welcomed such progress.

A former senior US official on South-East Asia said he expected the visit to focus on improving trade and economic relations, “an important point given the fairly lopsided imbalance of trade.”

Hurdles remain in Hanoi’s relations with both countries, including differences on human rights and democracy with the United States and land and sea borders with China.

Border disputes discussed as Vietnam premier visits China : Asia World

Vietnam to send back tainted milk to China

The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam has imposed a total ban on melamine in food and will send back any imported products found to be tainted with the industrial chemical, state-controlled media reported Wednesday.

The Labor newspaper report came after Beijing ordered the emergency testing of all milk products more than a month old, in the largest blanket withdrawal from store shelves since infant formula laced with the industrial chemical killed four infants and sickened tens of thousands of children in China.

Melamine has been found in 23 Chinese milk products imported into Vietnam, and about 330 tons (300 metric tons) of milk products, mostly imported from China, have been recalled.

Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Industry and Trade officials will help Vietnamese importers to return the tainted products to their Chinese exporters, the Labor report quoted Deputy Health Minister Cao Minh Quang as saying.

The Health Ministry has also banned all products for human consumption that are contaminated with melamine, Quang said.

China on Tuesday ordered all milk products more than a month old pulled from store shelves for emergency testing. All milk powder and liquid milk produced before Sept. 14 must be tested, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a notice jointly approved by six government ministries and administrations.

Melamine can cause kidney stones as the body tries to eliminate it and, in extreme cases, lead to life-threatening kidney failure. Infants are particularly susceptible.

Vietnam to send back tainted milk to China – International Herald Tribune

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Melamine contamination has been found in 23 milk products imported into Vietnam from China, officials said Tuesday, intensifying consumer worries about tainted milk products.

Five more products tested positive for the industrial chemical, which is usually used in making plastics and fertilizers. So far authorities have found 23 contaminated products after testing 400 samples of milk and milk products, Vietnam’s vice minister of health Cao Minh Quang said.

About 300 tons of products, mostly imported from China, have been recalled, said the ministry’s chief inspector, Tran Quang Trung.

“Milk and milk products contaminated with melamine have been brought under control,” Quang said. “Our top priority is to protect the health of people, especially children.”

Many Vietnamese customers have already stopped buying milk and milk products after reports of contaminated milk emerged.

“I have stopped buying milk for my 3-year-old son. Now we have to find other kinds of food to feed him,” said Nguyen Mai Huong, 33, a state employee. “There are too many kinds of milk, and we don’t know which one is safe.”

Vietnamese dairy farmers are suffering as a result of the milk boycott because factories are refusing to buy milk from them.

Nguyen Thi Mai, a dairy farmer in Phu Dong village just outside Hanoi, said she has had to give away or throw away milk since factories stopped buying it six days ago.

“I don’t know what is melamine, but it’s killing us,” she said.

China pledged to improve food safety Monday and authorities detained six more people in the country’s contaminated milk scandal. The head of China’s quality watchdog said the country was also stepping up checks on its exports.

The Chinese government has been scrambling to show it is tackling the problem of melamine contamination in milk powder and other products, which has been blamed for killing four babies and sickening more than 54,000 children with kidney stones and other illnesses in China.

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China – International Herald Tribune

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China

The Associated Press
Friday, October 3, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam’s health ministry has discovered the toxin at the heart of China’s tainted milk scandal in 18 products and has ordered importers to recall and destroy them, officials said Friday.

Recent tests found the industrial chemical melamine in dairy products and biscuits imported from China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to a statement on the Ministry of Health’s Web site.

Milk containing melamine has been blamed for killing four babies and sickening more than 54,000 others in China, sparking global concerns about food products made with Chinese milk or milk powder.

The Vietnamese statement did not list all the brand names that tested positive for melamine, but among them were five different varieties of Yili milk from China.

“We will intensify our inspections for melamine contamination to ensure the safety of consumers,” said Nguyen Thi Khanh Tram, vice director of Vietnam’s food safety administration.

Most of the contaminated items were milk and dairy products from China, the ministry said.

However, they also included biscuits imported from Malaysia and Indonesia as well as a powdered dairy creamer imported from Thailand. It was not clear whether the products had been produced in those countries or simply shipped to Vietnam from warehouses there.

Even before the test results were announced, retailers across Vietnam had begun removing tons of Chinese dairy products from their shelves and importers have been destroying them, according to Vietnamese media reports.

Vietnamese authorities have also said they will require all milk products to be tested before they can be imported into the country.

The milk scandal has sparked global concern about Chinese food imports and recalls in several countries of Chinese-made products.

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China – International Herald Tribune