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16 May 2009

China’s island claim dismays Vietnam

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A friendly attempt at economic cooperation between China and Vietnam has become ensnared in one of the most contentious disputes between the two neighbors, whose shared history has been punctuated by wars, reported the Associated Press.

China and Vietnam both claim possession of the Paracel Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea. To Vietnam's dismay, China recently posted an article blasting Vietnam's claim on a Website - - that the two nations jointly run to promote bilateral trade.

The Website was established in 2006 by the Chinese and Vietnamese trade ministries, said Tran Huu Linh, an official at the Vietnamese ministry.

The Paracels article was posted by the Chinese Ministry of Trade. It quoted a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu protesting Vietnam's appointment of a government official to oversee the disputed islands.

The subject of the Paracels inspires nationalist passions in Vietnam, where bloggers have expressed dismay about the latest turn of events.

Friday's Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper reported that China's statement was "wrong" and had stirred anxiety among Vietnamese.

"Incorrect statements by China on the Paracels are nothing new," Tiep Thi said on its front page. "This statement, however, was posted on a Website that ends with ''"

Officials with the Chinese Embassy were not immediately available for comment Friday.

The Paracel Islands consist of more than 30 islets, sandbanks or reefs over an area of nearly 6,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers). The dispute over their ownership dates back several decades.




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