Chinese president urges greater cooperation on security with Vietnam
China called for “greater coordination” with Vietnam in international affairs and containing the South China Sea disputes on Thursday amid uncertainties over possible changes to the region’s security under the future US administration of Donald Trump.
In talks with Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, who is visiting China until Sunday, President Xi Jinping said both nations should ensure their strategic intentions were in line with each other.
“The two nations should expand military exchanges and deepen security cooperation,” Xi was quoted by state-run CCTV as saying. “Coordination in international affairs should be raised to protect our mutual interests.”
Both nations should deepen trust and contain tensions over territorial disputes, further boosting their comprehensive strategic partnership, Xi added.
China and Vietnam are embroiled in a territorial spat over the South China Sea, most of which China has claimed for itself.
Both nations are building facilities on islands in the disputed waters. Satellite images show that facilities built by Beijing have been equipped for military purposes.
Vietnam had also lengthened a runway in the Spratly Islands from less than 760 metres to more than 1km, which could allow deployment of maritime surveillance aircraft.
Security in the region is becoming increasing uncertain as observers try to guess whether Washington will intensify its military buildup in the disputed waters under Trump.
On Wednesday, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said China should be denied access to the islands it has built in the contested waters, setting a course for potential military confrontation with Beijing.
But Tillerson did not elaborate on what might be done to prevent China reaching the outpost it has constructed atop reefs in the South China Sea.
The outgoing administration of Barack Obama had lifted a decades-long embargo on lethal arms sales to Hanoi last year, a move to ensure Vietnam’s access to necessary equipment for defence. Vietnam is also in discussions of acquiring an air missile system from India.
Nguyen said in his talks with Xi that Vietnam was willing to extend maritime cooperation with China, and their relationships in trade, investment, tourism, and national defence.
According to the latest World Bank report, the US was by far Vietnam’s largest export market, but nearly 30 per cent of Vietnam’s imports came from China.