A hotline has been established to link the leaders of China and Vietnam, following the visit to Beijing last week by Vietnamese Communist Party head Nguyen Phu Trong, according to a joint statement issued yesterday.
The statement said the two Communist-ruled countries also agreed to strengthen military co-operation, increase contacts between high-ranking officers, tackle cross-border crimes, as well as maintain peace in the disputed South China Sea.
The two countries signed an six-point maritime agreement on Tuesday seeking to contain the territory dispute over the South China Sea, home to potentially rich oil and gas deposits and crossed by key shipping lanes. China and Vietnam, as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have staked sovereignty claims over parts of the sea.
The eight-point joint statement released yesterday by Xinhua and the Vietnam News Agency said Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and Trong reaffirmed their determination to settle maritime issues through negotiations and friendly consultations and to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.
It said the two leaders formally opened the hotline during Trong's Beijing trip.
Dr Zhang Mingliang, from Jinan University's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said it was the first time the two countries had set up a direct hotline between their leaders since they normalised ties 20 years ago.
'It means that both the Chinese and Vietnamese leaders realised they had to deal with a lot of predictable problems, especially their wrangles over the South China Sea, which need to be solved quickly,' he said.
The two countries would communicate frequently on maritime issues and instruct parties on the proper handling and settlement of the issues from political and strategic perspectives, the statement said.
The two sides also agreed to step up contacts between high-ranking officers, maintain a vice-ministerial strategic dialogue between defence ministries, work on establishing a hotline between the two defence ministries and improve contacts between junior officers, it said.
In addition, the two countries agreed to launch a pilot project of joint patrols along their land border, continue joint naval patrols in the Beibu Gulf and increase mutual visits by the two countries' warships.
The two sides were determined to promote joint action to crack down on illegal border crossings and work together in new areas such as fighting telecom fraud, the statement said, adding that their co-operation will expand to courts, prosecutors, public security departments and judicial administrations.