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China, Vietnam seek to solve maritime dispute


October 26, 2008

China, Vietnam seek to solve maritime dispute
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, reported Reuters.

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 US sponsors.

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

Beijing and Hanoi normalised 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.

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