Vietnam is located on the eastern margin of the Indochinese peninsula and occupies about 331,211.6 square kilometers, of which about 25% was under cultivation in 1987. It borders the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and Pacific Ocean, along with China, Laos, and Cambodia. The S-shaped country has a north-to-south distance of 1,650 kilometers and is about 50 kilometers wide at the narrowest point. With a coastline of 3,260 kilometers, excluding islands, Vietnam claims 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) as the limit of its territorial waters, an additional 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) as a contiguous customs and security zone, and 200 nautical miles (370.4 km; 230.2 mi) as an exclusive economic zone.
The boundary with Laos, settled on both an ethnic and geographical basis, between the rulers of Vietnam and Laos in the mid-seventeenth century with the Annamite Range as a reference, was formally defined by a delimitation treaty signed in 1977 and ratified in 1986. The frontier with Cambodia, defined at the time of French annexation of the western part of the Mekong Delta in 1867, remained essentially unchanged, according to Hanoi, until some unresolved border issues were finally settled in the 1982-85 period. The land and sea boundary with China, delineated under the France-China treaties of 1887 and 1895, is “the frontier line” accepted by Hanoi that China agreed in 1957-58 to respect. However, in February 1979, following China’s limited invasion of Vietnam, Hanoi complained that from 1957 onward China had provoked numerous border incidents as part of its anti-Vietnam policy and expansionist designs in Southeast Asia. Among the territorial infringements cited was the Chinese occupation in January 1974 of the Paracel Islands, claimed by both countries in a dispute left unresolved in the 1980s.