Vietnam's president yesterday warned against the use of force in territorial disputes as his nation and its neighbours lock horns with China over competing claims in the South China Sea.
President Truong Tan Sang was addressing Japan's parliament during a four-day visit.
"Vietnam has always maintained these principles over maritime disputes - resolution by peaceful means, compliance with international law and respect for each other's due rights and sovereignty," Sang said.
"Countries concerned should not make the situation complex, but rather exercise self-restraint. They should neither use force nor threaten to use force."
Sang did not refer to any particular country. But Vietnam and three other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - have opposed Beijing's attempt to claim almost all of the South China Sea.
Sang said he hoped to strengthen ties with Japan, which is also embroiled in a separate and bitter territorial dispute with China. Tokyo has called for stronger security ties with Asean members to try to ease the growing territorial tensions. At a joint press briefing, Sang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they discussed regional peace, loans and grant aid to Vietnam and the possibility of Japan sending patrol boats to the country.
Sang also expressed support for Japan over the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Vietnam said it would work with Japan to solve the abduction issue. Hanoi has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Abe and Sang also called for ensuring freedom of flight above the open seas, in an apparent criticism of China's unilateral declaration in November of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea.
- The US Pacific commander, Vice-Admiral Robert Thomas, who sailed to Manila on the USS Blue Ridge, stressed the Philippines' importance as a military ally. "Our 62-year alliance with the Philippines remains key to our efforts to ensure the stability and prosperity of the Western Pacific," he said.
Asked by the South China Morning Post how the US naval operations would be affected if China asserts its domination over the South China Sea, Thomas said: "We're going to continue to operate in international waters.
"We're going to continue to encourage freedom of access for all the maritime nations in the theatre, and as disputes come up, we're going continue to encourage the dialogue, resolving it through the rule of law. We will continue to stand by our allies."
Additional reporting by Raissa Robles in Manila, Kyodo