AN unprecedented meeting between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Vietnamese leaders ended last night with a vow to put differences aside to resolve simmering tensions. Mr Jiang's spokesman, Chen Jian, said leaders on both sides acknowledged problems but agreed they should not interfere with emerging friendship. 'There are some problems in the bilateral relationship . . . the two sides believed that they should enhance understanding and seek common ground while putting aside their differences,' Mr Chen said, referring to growing tensions in the South China Sea and the Tonkin Gulf. 'Both sides will proceed from the overall interest of the friendly relations between the countries and of peace and stability in the region,' he said. However, he added that neither Mr Jiang, the first Chinese president to visit Vietnam, or Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi and the President, General Le Duc Anh, covered 'specific incidents of specific issues'. The three leaders met for nearly two hours of 'cordial and friendly talks' at the grand Presidential Palace in Hanoi. Mr Chen said both sides acknowledged similar positions on many issues and the need to develop friendly relations and trade. Three agreements are due to be signed during the visit to seek a greater and better controlled flow of goods each way across the border. Normalised dealings between Hanoi and Beijing were just three years old but there had been satisfactory progress in that time, Mr Chen said. Describing Mr Jiang's visit as a milestone, he said the visit was a 'manifestation of the importance China places on its relationship with Vietnam'. On arrival as possibly Hanoi's most important state guest yet, Mr Jiang put a history of war and mistrust aside and said: 'The friendship between our two people dates back to times immemorial'. Both sets of officials are understood to be aiming for a conflict-free visit. Tough talk over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands and flare-ups in the Tonkin Gulf is expected to be kept between foreign ministry officials in back-rooms. After Mr Jiang touched down, he was ushered into Hanoi's Presidential Palace through a line of young women in flowing national dresses who threw flower petals. Flanked by Mr Muoi and General Anh, he inspected an honour guard of soldiers and sailors armed with bayonets. Outside, huge banners hung across streets leading to the palace issuing 'warm welcomes to Comrade Jiang'. They stopped short of more gushy proclamations accorded other communist allies.