Vietnam told not to complicate sea claims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am


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Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao yesterday urged visiting Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong to avoid complicating territorial disputes in the South China Sea by seeking foreign assistance in resolving rival claims.

During talks in Beijing that Xinhua said included a 'candid' discussion on the South China Sea, Hu said the two sides should work together to find a solution concerning development in the resource-rich waters.

'Both sides should not take any action that may magnify or complicate the disputes, but instead deal with problems in a calm and constructive fashion and avoid affecting the relationship between the two countries and parties, as well as the peace and stability in the South China Sea,' Hu told Trong.

Analysts said Hu's comments were aimed at persuading Hanoi to avoid inviting foreign involvement in regional issues.

The talks marked the start of a four-day visit by Trong at Hu's invitation. It is his first trip to China since he was elected general secretary of Vietnam's Communist Party in January. Vice-President Xi Jinping also attended the talks.

China News Service reported that the two sides spoke positively about an agreement on basic principles to guide the resolution of the two countries' maritime issues.

Hu said leaders of both countries should maintain communication, dialogue and negotiations regarding the issues, and give timely guidance from a political and strategic point of view for the appropriate handling of them. In response, Trong said the Vietnamese side will maintain direct communication with Chinese leaders regarding the appropriate management of maritime issues and will give timely guidance.

Vietnam and China, as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and home to shipping lanes vital to global trade. Washington has expressed concerns over the disputes and said that free navigation of the South China Sea is in its national interests.

Vietnam has openly welcomed US involvement in the dispute in an effort to resolve the rival claims, and the two sides went as far as to hold joint naval exercises in July, despite objections from China and amid tensions over the sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing was also unhappy last month after learning that Vietnam had awarded exploration rights in the disputed waters to Indian state-owned oil and gas company ONGC Videsh.

Sino-Vietnamese relations sank to their lowest point in years in May and June when Vietnam said Chinese vessels had twice interfered with oil-survey ships in the South China Sea. Both nations have recently moved to calm tensions over the territorial dispute, agreeing to hold talks and ruling out military confrontation.