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July 18, 2008

Vietnam to improve trade, transport links with China
Vietnam plans to boost transport and trade links with neighbouring China by upgrading a major northern highway and sea port by 2020 under a multi-billion-dollar proposal announced on Thursday.

AFP reported that the new "economic corridor" is part of an emerging web of road links, many part-funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), connecting China and regional countries that also include Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has signed off on a plan for a 1.4 billion dollar six-lane expressway from Hanoi to the border town of Lang Son, to connect with a road to Nanning in China's Guangxi province.

The plan - part of the Chinese-Vietnamese so-called "two corridors, one economic belt" initiative agreed in 2005 - was announced on the official Vietnamese government website and in state media.

Vietnam, with ADB funding, is already upgrading its Hanoi road and rail links to the northwestern border town of Lao Cai, to speed up the flow of goods and people to Kunming in southern China's Yunnan province.

It also plans to build up its main northern deep-sea container port of Haiphong to boost annual capacity to 25 million tonnes by 2010 and 40 million tonnes by 2020, said the official government website

Work is set to begin this year on a 1.2 million dollar six-lane expressway between Hanoi and Haiphong, which was announced in previous plans.

Another 114-kilometre road will link the capital's Noi Bai International Airport with the northern harbour of Halong City, the official website said.

The plans signal that Vietnam and China have put economic ties ahead of their troubled past - which included a millennium of Chinese rule of Vietnam followed by more invasions and independence wars through the centuries.

The two countries fought their last border war in 1979. A territorial dispute still simmers about the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, and the land border has yet to be fully demarcated.

Despite their past, both countries now hope closer economic integration will provide southern China with alternative sea access routes while boosting economic development in Vietnam's poor mountainous north.

Under the newly announced plans, both countries will have three international border points, four other border gates, 13 joint border markets and an economic cooperation zone at Lang Son in Vietnam.

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