Vietnam Geography

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Location: Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea to the east, China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the Gulf of Thailand to the south.

Size: Vietnam is long and thin, with an area of 330,363 square kilometers.

Land Boundaries: Vietnam shares land boundaries with Cambodia (1,228 kilometers), China (1,281 kilometers), and Laos (2,130 kilometers).

Disputed Territory: On December 30, 1999, China and Vietnam signed a treaty that settled disputes over the two nations’ common border. However, the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea are still regarded as disputed territory. Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, which are believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.

In May 2004, the government authorized 50 tourists and 40 officials to visit the Spratly Islands by boat. The other nations staking a claim to the islands protested what they interpreted as an assertion of sovereignty by Vietnam. In October 2004, Vietnam invited bids for oil exploration in the Spratlys, triggering a complaint from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In November 2004, China retaliated by moving an oil-drilling platform into position to explore for oil in the Paracels.

Length of Coastline: Vietnam’s coastline along the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea, and the Gulf of Thailand measures 3,444 kilometers.

Maritime Claims: In June 2004, Vietnam’s National Assembly ratified an agreement originally reached with China in December 2000 that established an internationally valid maritime border in the Gulf of Tonkin. The ratification delay was attributable to concerns that the government had made too many concessions during negotiations. In addition, in April 2004 China and Vietnam agreed to a common fishing zone in the Gulf of Tonkin. Vietnam claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, the approximate beginning of the continental shelf.

Topography: Vietnam is a country of tropical lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands, with level land covering no more than 20 percent of the area. The country is divided into the highlands and the Red River Delta in the north, and the Giai Truong Son (Central mountains, or the Chaîne Annamitique, sometimes referred to simply as the Chaîne), the coastal lowlands, and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The highest point in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan, at 3,143 meters above sea level, in the northwest.

Principal Rivers: A relatively dense network of rivers traverses Vietnam. The principal rivers are as follows: in the north, the Red and Thai Binh; in the center, the Ca, Ma, Han, Thach Han, and Thu Bon; and in the south, the Mekong and Dong Nai.

Climate: Vietnam’s climate is tropical and monsoonal; humidity averages 84 percent throughout the year. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,200 to 3,000 millimeters, and annual temperatures vary between 5°C and 37°C.

Natural Resources: Vietnam’s main natural resources consist of coal, copper, crude oil, gold, iron, manganese, silver, and zinc.

Land Use: In 2003 Vietnam’s land use was distributed as follows: 21 percent, arable; 28 percent, forest and woodland; and 51 percent, other.

Environmental Factors: The National Environmental Agency, a branch of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment, is responsible for environmental protection. At the provincial level, the Departments of Science, Technology, and the Environment bear responsibility. Non-governmental organizations, particularly the Institute of Ecological Economics, also play a role. Urbanization, industrialization, and intensive farming are having a negative impact on Vietnam’s environment. These factors have led to air pollution, water pollution, and noise pollution, particularly in urban and industrial centers like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The most serious problem is waste treatment. Land use pressures have led to significant environmental problems, including severe deforestation, soil erosion, sedimentation of rivers, flooding in the deltas, declining fish yields, and pollution of the coastal and marine environment. The use of Agent Orange by the U.S. military in the Second Indochina War (1954– 75) has had a lingering effect on Vietnam in the form of persistent environmental contamination that has increased the incidence of various diseases and birth defects.

Time Zone: Seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Country Profile: Vietnam


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Library Of Congress December 2005
Name: Vietnam/Vietnam Geography

Country: Vietnam

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