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Jiang Appeals for Stronger Relationship With Vietnam - 2002-02-28

China's president Jiang Zemin says communist neighbors China and Vietnam should overcome their difficult history and build a stronger relationship. Mr. Jiang is on a friendship visit to China's southern neighbor and sometime rival, Vietnam.

In an address at Hanoi National University, President Jiang said the two sides should forever be "good neighbors, good comrades and good partners." He also referred to both the current friendship and past conflicts between the two communist neighbors, including a brief, bloody border war in 1979.

Diplomatic ties were severed after the fight and were not re-established until 1991.

Mr. Jiang said future relations will be much brighter. He proposed further talks to solve a lingering border dispute. Unresolved claims between the two nations also include arguments over the Paracel Islands and the possibly oil-rich Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese state media said the two sides agreed to resolve territorial disputes peacefully. The local press also said the two sides are working to finish a fisheries agreement.

Back in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says current relations are good politically, economically, and in other ways.

Mr. Kong says trade and economic ties between China and Vietnam have grown nearly 90 percent in the past decade. The two nations have the fastest growing economies in East Asia and hope to further increase trade to $5 billion by 2005.

Reports from Vietnam say crowds of students sang songs as part of a warm greeting to Mr. Jiang. But those reports also say China's smaller, southern neighbor is worried that the giant to the north could overwhelm its modest economy.