Gulf of Tonkin

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Source-This post on Gulf of Tonkin is based on the article “Vietnam urges respect of international law as China draws Gulf of Tonkin baseline” published in “The Indian Express” on 14th March 2024.

Why in the News?

Vietnam urges respect for international law after China sets a baseline in the Gulf of Tonkin.
This action sparks concerns due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea. However, historically, both countries have maintained friendly relations in the Gulf of Tonkin.


Baselines are imaginary lines along the coast used to measure the extent of a country’s territorial sea and other maritime zones, like territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.

About Gulf of Tonkin

Gulf of Tonkin
Source- ResearchGate

1. Location– It is a shallow, crescent-shaped body of water located in the northwest part of the South China Sea. It is known as “Beibu Gulf” in Chinese and “Bac Bo Gulf” in Vietnamese.

2. Borders– The gulf is bordered by the northern coast of Vietnam to the west and northwest, China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the north, and the Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island to the east.

3. Rivers that drain into it– The Gulf of Tonkin receives water from multiple rivers, primarily the Red River (referred to as the Yuan River in Chinese), along with several smaller rivers.

4. Connection– It connects to the South China Sea through its southern mouth and the Hainan Strait (Qiongzhou Strait) to the northeast.

5. Major PortsIn Northern Vietnam, the primary ports along the gulf are Haiphong and Ben Thuy. In China, the major port is Beihai (Pakhoi).

6. Historical incident– The Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

UPSC Syllabus- Geography and Places in news

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