DIPLOMACY

China's President Xi Jinping calls for 'new approach' to territorial dispute with Vietnam

President tells visiting Vietnamese Communist Party chief of need to 'jointly manage and control maritime disputes' and 'deepen cooperation'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2015, 12:48am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 3:44pm

President Xi Jinping called on the visiting Vietnam Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong on Tuesday to explore a "new approach" to solving the two countries' disputes.

Xi, the Chinese Communist Party's general secretary, told Trong at the Great Hall of the People that the two countries must manage their dispute over the South China Sea to maintain peace and stability.

Vietnam has long been suspicious of Beijing's increasingly assertive claims to most of the South China Sea.

Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam last year after a deepwater rig owned by China National Offshore Oil Corporation was set up 240km off the Vietnamese coast.

Since then, however, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam, and has sent senior officials to Hanoi.

Xi said ties between the two countries and the two communist parties faced new opportunities as well as challenges.

"We have to deepen the cooperation of our two parties, explore new approaches to solve the problems in the two countries' relations, as well as find new paradigms in advancing our bilateral ties," Xi said.

Xi told Trong of the need for both sides to "jointly properly manage and control maritime disputes, and maintain the broader picture of relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea".

Trong told Xi that Vietnam put great store in friendly relations with China.

The Vietnamese Communist Party's Nhan Dan newspaper said that Trong's visit "creates favourable conditions" to resolve problems between the countries, but did not mention the disputes in the South China Sea.

Xinhua said Trong's visit, which comes ahead of his trip to the United States later this year, signalled that the two sides "cherish their strong and lasting bond". But it warned of problems ahead.

"Some outsiders, for selfish reasons, are exploiting every possible excuse to sow discord between them, while a few in Vietnam's political circle have been deluded by external Pied Pipers and become accomplices," it added, without elaborating.

Analysts said that although both sides had found the need to mend relations, Trong's visit was unlikely to come up with any concrete solution to the territorial disputes. "Trong might want to use the US to bargain for concessions from China over the South China Sea, or at least not to repeat an incident like the oil rig," said Joyce Lin Juo-yu, director of the Asean Studies Centre at Tamkang University in Taipei.

"What they reached in their meeting is still rather positive in terms of improving Sino-Vietnamese relations," she added.

"But it will take time for the two sides to accumulate adequate trust before they can actually resolve their South China Sea row."

Tran Cong Truc, former chairman of the Vietnamese government's Border Committee, said: "The fact that they are meeting, regardless of the result, is a good sign and should be welcomed."

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press