Cablegate: Vietnam and China Sign Prelude to Fishing Protocol

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: 03 Hanoi 2846

1. (U) Summary: At the conclusion of ministerial talks in
Hanoi February 24, Vietnam and the PRC signed an agreement
on the basic contents of a future protocol for fishing
cooperation in the Gulf of Tonkin, expected to be signed
later this year in Beijing. Vietnam views this protocol as
essential to reducing the number of conflicts between China
and Vietnam over fishing in the Gulf, but Vietnam will
likely end up with a diplomatic plus and a fishing minus.
End summary.


2 (SBU) The Vietnamese Ministry of Fisheries recently
hosted the eighth round of ministerial-level negotiations on
fishing in the Gulf of Tonkin in Hanoi. As the talks
concluded on February 24, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of
Fisheries Nguyen Ngoc Hong and PRC Deputy Agriculture
Minister Qi Jingfa signed an agreement between the two
ministries on the basic contents of a protocol. The
protocol, according to the Deputy Director of the Maritime
Affairs Department of the MFA's Border Commission, is
intended to flesh out the fishing agreement that was reached
in 2000 after seven years of difficult negotiations. During
a reception for the Chinese delegation, Deputy Prime
Minister Vu Khoan praised the common effort that had led the
negotiations to such a positive outcome.


3. (SBU) According to the MFA, the final contents of the
protocol will need to be reviewed during the border talks
anticipated for later this year in Beijing. If the two
governments approve the details, the protocol will then be
submitted to Vietnam's National Assembly and the PRC's
National People's Congress for ratification. The protocol
is "very likely" to be on the agenda of the National
Assembly at its November session this year, the MFA


4. (U) In public remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Khoan
emphasized that the agreement would be extremely important
for the maintenance of long-term stability in the Gulf of
Tonkin while helping strengthening trust, friendship, and
cooperation between people living on its shores as well as
between the peoples of Vietnam and China. The protocol will
serve as a "guidance sub-agreement to implement the fishing
agreement," according to the MFA. Once in effect, the
protocol will provide the basis for the establishment of an
inter-ministerial committee to oversee fishing activities,
which will work out issues pertaining to the number of boats
allowed in each other's waters, how to levy fishing taxes,
and other bilateral issues (such as fishing boat incidents)
that might arise. (Note: Conflicts over illegal fishing,
including mutual seizures of fishing vessels and cargos,
occur several times each year in the Gulf. See reftel. End


5. (U) In the list of irritants in the China-Vietnam
relationship, fishing is near the top due to the recurrent
disputes and seizures of cargos, crews, and ships by both
sides. This agreement is an important step forward in the
process of hammering out a modus vivendi on the fishing
issue. Given the relative size of the fishing fleets (and
navies), however, Vietnam will likely end up getting the
short end of the stick -- a relatively small price to pay
for smoother relations with its powerful neighbor.

© Scoop Media

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