Vietnam to spend billions on islands amid China dispute

Vietnam has announced a USD 8.5bn economic and defence development plan for a string of islands along its resource-rich coastline, as a broader sovereignty dispute simmers with China.

Last Updated: May 04, 2010, 18:08 PM IST

Hanoi: Vietnam has announced a USD 8.5
billion economic and defence development plan for a string of
islands along its resource-rich coastline, as a broader
sovereignty dispute simmers with China.

A copy of the plan, dated April 28, was obtained
today.

It calls for development over a 10-year period of a
string of islands stretching from Phu Quoc near Cambodia in
the southwest to Cat Ba off Haiphong in the north near China.

The document says authorities aim to boost seafood,
tourism, agro-forestry and other sectors under the plan, which
will require an estimated investment of 162.5 trillion dong
(USD 8.5 billion) over 10 years to 2020.

"That`s a significant wad of cash for Vietnam to be
spending," said Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

The plan also calls for increased investment in the
islands` defences.

"It is essential to pay attention to security and defence
tasks during arrangements for economic and civil projects on
islands," the document says, calling for them to become an
"outer defence stronghold".

The stronghold would include the Spratlys, the document
says, although the South China Sea archipelago is not among
the islands listed for the economic development initiative.

Vietnam and China are engaged in a long-running dispute
over sovereignty of the Spratlys and another archipelago to
the north, the Paracels, which China occupies.

PTI