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Vietnam:
Geography

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Background
Definition
The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. However, since the enactment of Vietnam's "doi moi" (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience protests from various groups - such as the Protestant Montagnard ethnic minority population of the Central Highlands and the Hoa Hao Buddhists in southern Vietnam over religious persecution. Montagnard grievances also include the loss of land to Vietnamese settlers.
Location
Definition
Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Geographic coordinates
Definition
16 00 N, 106 00 E
Map references
Definition
Southeast Asia
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 329,560 sq km
land: 325,360 sq km
water: 4,200 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 4,639 km
border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km
Coastline
Definition
3,444 km (excludes islands)
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate
Definition
tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)
Terrain
Definition
low, flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly, mountainous in far north and northwest
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m
Natural resources
Definition
phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 20.14%
permanent crops: 6.93%
other: 72.93% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
30,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
891.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 71.39 cu km/yr (8%/24%/68%)
per capita: 847 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta
Environment - current issues
Definition
logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
extending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point


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