China's top diplomat will visit Vietnam next week as part of efforts to ease tension over maritime disputes in the South China Sea ahead of talks on a code of conduct for the waters. State Councillor Yang Jiechi is due to arrive in Vietnam on Monday for talks with Hanoi's top envoy, Pham Binh Minh. The two would discuss "Sino-Vietnam bilateral cooperation", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference in Beijing. Ties had hit "temporary difficulties" because of maritime disputes this year, Hua said. "But China is willing to work together with the Vietnamese side … to push forward … [a] strategic partnership of cooperation." Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin is scheduled to attend two days of talks in Bangkok, where he will discuss a code of conduct for the South China Sea with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Zhang Jie, an Asian studies specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Yang and Pham would also discuss trade and financial cooperation. "It would be positive for China in the [Bangkok] talks … if the meeting between Yang and Pham can yield some results," she said. Yang's visit could pave the way for a possible meeting between the leaders of China and Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting next month in Beijing, said Zhang Mingliang, a Southeast Asian affairs specialist at Guangzhou-based Jinan University. It will be Yang's second visit to Vietnam since June, when he accused Vietnam of "hyping up" the disagreement over China's deployment the previous month of an oil rig in parts of the South China Sea claimed by both countries. Chinese-owned businesses were targeted in ensuing riots in Vietnam and at least four Chinese were killed in the violence. Tensions began to ease when the oil rig was removed one month ahead of schedule in July, followed by several exchanges between senior officials. Premier Li Keqiang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to control maritime disputes on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Italy last week. But observers said ties remained tricky. On Thursday, Vietnamese foreign ministry deputy spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang said China's move to build a military airstrip in the Spratly Islands was "illegal and void without Vietnam's permission". Zhang Jie said the unrest and territorial disputes made building trust difficult. "The two countries are likely to continue to confront each other over their territorial dispute while at the same time continuing diplomatic negotiations," Zhang said.