Situated on the eastern coast of mainland Southeast Asia, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has an area of 329,560 sq km (127,244 sq mi), extending 1,650 km (1,025 mi) N – S and 600 km (373 mi) E – W . Comparatively, the area occupied by Vietnam is slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. At its narrowest, Vietnam is only 50 km (31 mi) across. The nation is bordered on the N by China, on the E by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the E and S by the South China Sea, on the SW by the Gulf of Thailand, and on the W by Cambodia and Laos, with a total land boundary of 4,639 km (2,883 mi) and a coastline of 3,444 km (2,140 mi). Before unification, which was proclaimed on 3 July 1976, Vietnam was divided in two by the 17th parallel. To the south was the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), also known as South Vietnam; to the north, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), also known as North Vietnam.
Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia claim all or part of the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands, located in the South China Sea roughly 600 km (350 mi) east of Ho Chi Minh City and 400 km (250 mi) east of Da Nang, respectively. The Paracel Islands are known in Vietnamese as the Hoang Sa archipelago, and the Spratlys as the Truong Sa. Both archipelagoes are reportedly surrounded by rich undersea oil reserves, and are productive fishing grounds. China has occupied the Paracel Islands since 1974, when Chinese troops drove a South Vietnamese garrison from the western islands. Vietnam occupies six of the Spratlys, and has unsuccessfully engaged in negotiations with Malaysia and the Philippines over the remainder. Periodic clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces have taken place in the vicinity of both island groups.
Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi, is located in the northern part of the country.