Vietnam vows peaceful resolution of maritime disputes
Tue, Dec 08, 2009

HANOI, VIETNAM - Vietnam voiced concerns on Tuesday over regional tensions in the South China Sea but said they will not lead to conflict, in line with a new defence document that stresses international cooperation.

The White Paper released Tuesday is only the third since 1998 and for the first time included details of the communist nation's military budget and armed forces strength, said Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, deputy minister of defence.

Asked about tensions in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea, Vinh said: "This is a matter of concern to the Vietnamese national defence but the complications over the East Sea will not lead to conflicts".

A long-standing dispute between China and Vietnam over ownership of the Paracels and a more southerly archipelago, the Spratleys, escalated earlier this year.

Vietnam said fishing boats and their crew had been seized, and fishermen reported seeing an increasing number of armed Chinese patrol ships in disputed waters.

Legislators last month approved a law to establish a marine militia to protect the communist country's maritime sovereignty.

Vinh said that although the South China Sea issue is a matter of concern, international law provides a basis for a resolution.

"As a party to the disputes over the East Sea it is the policy of our party, state and the Vietnamese national defence to ensure that all will be settled through peaceful means," he told an audience that included journalists, foreign military attaches and other diplomats.

The White Paper said Vietnam's defence budget in 2008, the latest year given, was 27 trillion dong (1.4 billion US dollars), or 1.8 percent of gross domestic product.

It said the armed services, known as the Vietnam People's Army, have 450,000 active personnel and a reserve of five million in a nation of about 86 million people. --AFP

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