Xi reaffirms intent for deal on isles to maintain peace
Vice-President Xi Jinping's itinerary during his three-day visit this week to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, underscored Beijing's determination to improve bilateral ties amid maritime territorial disputes.
However, Beijing also took care to avoid a domestic backlash from those accusing it of sidelining China's national interests.
Video footage of Xi and Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong hugging each other before their talks on Wednesday was not aired on China Central Television's main news bulletin. Analysts said that showed Beijing was exercising caution to avoid controversy at home.
Xi yesterday met Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who said last month that China used force nearly four decades ago to occupy the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Dung softened his tone yesterday, saying he was thankful for China's support of Vietnam.
For his part, Xi reiterated his intention to enact an agreement - reached between President Hu Jintao and Trong in October - to maintain peace over the disputed isles.
Xi, who ended his visit with a meeting with young communists from both countries, said both countries ought to strengthen bilateral co-operation.
'Continuing the friendly ties between China and Vietnam from generation to generation is the historic duty that is unshakeable to the leaders, people and especially young people of the two countries,' Xi said.
Chinese officials said Xi's trip was aimed at bolstering bilateral ties and that the South China Sea disputes should not be a major focal point.
Some Chinese commentators and internet users have criticised Beijing for not taking a tough approach against Vietnam.
A commentary published in September by the nationalist Global Times even said Beijing should declare war in the South China Sea.
'China wants to set aside disputes first, and there is concern that Vietnam will be more inclined to the United States if China is too tough,' said Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst. 'Some people may find it hard to see Beijing and Hanoi becoming too friendly.'
Xi and the Vietnamese leaders he met pledged to maintain stability in the South China Sea, Xinhua reported.
Vietnam News, a state-owned newspaper, reported yesterday that Hanoi had affirmed its readiness to resolve the territorial disputes through peaceful negotiations.