Vietnamese state-run media is marking for the first time the anniversary of a 1974 naval battle with China in which 74 soldiers from U.S.-backed South Vietnam were killed.

The move appears to be aimed at boosting the legitimacy of the government in regards to its tricky dealings with China, which is the subject of popular, nationalist anger.

The fight following China's occupation of the Paracel islands doesn't feature in Vietnam's state-sanctioned history books because of its historical sensitivity: The government of North Vietnam didn't counter the Chinese move because Beijing was giving it arms and money to fight the United States.

Papers have been running interviews with relatives of those killed and accounts of the battle ahead of Sunday's 40th anniversary.