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Cablegate: (Vodka) Shots Reported Across the China-Vietnam Border

VZCZCXRO0047
OO RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHHI #1314 3420419
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 080418Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0536
INFO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHMCSUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0036
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0232
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS HANOI 001314

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON PBTS ECIN CH VM
SUBJECT: (Vodka) Shots Reported Across the China-Vietnam Border

REF: HANOI 23; HANOI 134; 08 HANOI 1094

A) Hanoi 23, B) Hanoi 134, C) 08 Hanoi 1094

SUBJECT: (Vodka) Shots Reported Across the China-Vietnam Border

1. (SBU) On November 18, Vietnam and China signed a series of
accords to implement the historic 2008 agreement demarcating
Vietnam's 1,400-kilometer land border with China (ref A).
According to contacts familiar with the negotiations, the agreement
was hastily concluded December 31, 2008 to meet a ten-year deadline
established when the two sides opened discussions in January 1999.
Among the most contentious issues remaining to be discussed was the
exact placement of border markings at the Ban Gioc waterfall, a
picturesque and remote site in the karst hill country separating
Vietnam's Lang Son province and Guangxi. The November 18 accords,
among other things, settled the Ban Gioc boundary and set the stage
for discussions on joint tourist development.

2. (SBU) On November 19 -- the day after the signing of the
accords -- PolOff visited the Ban Gioc waterfall, and met with
officers from the Army Border Guards and a representative from the
Lang Son People's Committee and External Relations Office. Visibly
drunk, the commander of the Border Guards, who introduced himself
simply as Major Hoa, explained that he had just concluded an
informal "consultation" session with his Chinese counterparts
across the river, which he said took place monthly or whenever
circumstances required. Hoa was hard-pressed to enumerate what
those circumstances might be, but eventually said that tourists
sometimes fell into the water. He bristled at the suggestion that
Ban Gioc was a "hotspot," though he conceded that the border had
been "sensitive." Mostly, though, Hoa seemed nonplussed that it
was an issue at all. Hoa showed PolOff the newly installed border
marker on the Vietnamese side of the falls, pointing to the Chinese
marker on the other bank, as well as a cleared area near the water
that he said would eventually accommodate tourists from both
countries. He said that he did not know the location of the exact
border in the waterfall, adding that it was a waterfall and nobody
can go across it. "What are a few meters anyway," he concluded,
"if it means that Vietnam and China are at peace and can prosper
together."

Comment: In Vino Veritas

------------------------

3. (SBU) Hoa has a point. Negotiations over Ban Gioc took on
major symbolic significance last year among nationalistic-minded
intellectuals in Hanoi and HCMC and the overseas dissident
community, with territorial concessions -- real and imagined --
cast as craven kowtowing. In reality, however, the border accords
removed a potential source of friction between China and Vietnam.
This was a significant achievement, as we noted when the agreement
was signed, particularly given that the 1979 war with China that
left up to 20,000 Vietnamese dead was precipitated by a border
dispute, even if its root cause was Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia
(ref B). As if to reinforce the point, on the road back to the
provincial capital of Cao Bang, the ERO representative, Ly The
Toan, pointed to villages that had been leveled during China's
two-month incursion 31 years ago. It is useful to keep in mind the
stakes as Vietnam strives to manage pragmatically its asymmetrical
relationship with China (ref C).
Michalak

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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