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Jul 14, 2019 / 23:35

Hanoi expects breakthroughs in delimitation in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2020

The delimitation agreement is made in the hope that maritime disputes would not overwhelm bilateral relations.

Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan of the Vietnamese National Assembly has said in Beijing that Vietnam expects some breakthroughs in negotiations for the maritime delimitation in the mouth of the Tonkin Gulf in 2020. 
Vietnamese National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 12. Photo: VNS
Vietnamese National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 12. Photo: VNS
The delimitation should be promoted following the path which has been agreed by the two sides which covers the fishing cooperation and aims to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, Ngan said at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 12. 
Vietnam hoped that the two sides commonly solve maritime issues to clear challenges for the long-term partnership by closely following the joint agreement on solving maritime disputes reached by the countries’ top leaders and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, Ngan said in talks during her five-day visit to China beginning in July 8. 
In turn, Xi Jinping said as neighboring countries with shared ideology, Vietnam and China should partner in the constructive spirit by promoting cooperation and restraining disputes for the overall prospects. 
Agreement on maritime delimitation 
In December 2000, Vietnam and China reached Agreements on the Delimitation of the Tonkin Gulf and Fishery Cooperation in the hope that maritime disputes over the Spratlys and the Paracels would not overwhelm bilateral relations and reduce them to these tensions alone.
Gulf of Tonkin. Photo: East Asian Peace Program
Gulf of Tonkin. Photo: East Asian Peace Program
The Gulf of Tonkin (Vinh Bac Bo in Vietnamese or Beibu wan 北部湾 in Chinese) covers an area of 126,250 square kilometers, bordered to the west by the north coast of Vietnam, and to the east by the Chinese coastlines of the Guangxi Autonomous Region, the Leizhou Peninsula (in Guangdong Province), and the island of Hainan. 
For the most part relatively shallow (under 60 meters), the Gulf measures 283km at the widest point of its mouth, and 191km between the point of Oanh Ca on Chinese Hainan, and the Vietnamese island of Con Co.
These agreements end years of negotiation and debate regarding the rights of the respective states to the ocean areas and resources in the Gulf, according to Nguyen Hong Thao, vice chairman of the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC).
This agreement demarcated the first maritime border between Hanoi and Beijing and is China’s first maritime boundary agreement and remains the only one so far, according to Stein Tønnesson from Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). 
Benoît de Tréglodé said in the book “Maritime Boundary Delimitation and Sino-Vietnamese Cooperation in the Gulf of Tonkin” said thanks to observing the Gulf of Tonkin agreements, the upsurge of tensions in the South China Sea since 2011 has only affected their bilateral partnership to a limited extent.
Accordingly, it helps establish their first maritime border in the waters of the Gulf as well as cooperation in matters of fishing, hydrocarbon exploration, and maritime security. 
In other words, the agreements on land and maritime borders between China and Vietnam signaled the start, as the new millennium began, of a new zone of cooperation and economic development around the Gulf of Tonkin.
Meanwhile, Stein Tønnesson said that maritime boundaries can be established only through negotiations/arbitration, noting that no solution is possible outside of international law, the PRIO reported. 
For that reason, boundary delimitation is the best basis for “joint development”, he emphasized.