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The BBC's Mary Jane Baxter
"The pact ends years of talks"
 real 56k

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones
"There are still issues between the two countries that remain to be resolved"
 real 28k

Monday, 25 December, 2000, 08:12 GMT
China-Vietnam pact signed
Map of China, Vietnam and their border
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Hanoi

Vietnam and China have signed an agreement on their sea border in the Tonkin Gulf, at the start of a four-day visit to China by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong.

Negotiations on the Tonkin Gulf sea border have been going since the 1970s, but were interrupted by the war between China and Vietnam in 1979.

But now after 18 rounds of talks, the two sides have settled their differences.

Both countries say the negotiations were tough. Difficult issues included the status of an island which is home to a small Vietnamese fishing community.

The formula used to establish the demarcation line remains secret, but it is believed the sea border will not follow a straight line.

Fishing rights

The two countries will also sign an agreement on fishing rights, establishing at least for a limited period a common fishing zone.

These agreements follow the successful conclusion last year of talks on China and Vietnam's disputed land border.

There are still issues between the two countries that remain to be resolved, not least the complex question of the Spratley and Paracel island groups.

Nevertheless, both China and Vietnam insist that they are managing to break away from their traditionally poor relationship.

Western diplomats say the Tonkin Gulf agreement is a significant achievement, especially for Vietnam, which currently has to devote considerable resources to maintaining vigilance on its sea and land borders with China.

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