China and Vietnam must manage their own maritime disputes and resist outside instigation, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday.
In a phone call with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong
, Xi also said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement should enter into effect “as soon as possible”, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s account of the exchange.
“The two sides should … properly manage maritime differences, oppose instigation and incitement of troubles by external forces, and promote regional peace and stable development,” Xi told Trong.
The two countries have long-lasting disputes in the South China Sea
over numerous islands and reefs causing occasional confrontations at sea, and even two brief battles in 1974 and 1988. Their claims also overlap with neighbours Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.
In 2014, a Chinese oil rig operating in the disputed waters was at the centre of a violent anti-China protest across Vietnam
. Most recently, the two coastguards had a months-long stand-off near Vanguard Bank in 2019 and later the two again entered into a three-way stand-off with Malaysia that lasted into 2020.
China has always insisted the disputes be resolved between the parties, concerned that any conflict could be exploited by “external forces”– namely the United States – to play the other claimants off against China and undermine China’s attempts to promote economic integration and increase influence in the region.
During Monday’s talk between leaders Xi said China was willing to accelerate Beijing’s grand infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative
, promote cross-border economic cooperation zones between the two countries and explore exchanges and cooperation in the fields of health care, the digital economy and culture.
Trong reportedly said Vietnam would like to accelerate putting their cooperation agreements into effect.
Xi made reference to the two nations’ communist leadership. He said sustained, healthy and stable China-Vietnam relations
were conducive to the prosperity of the socialist cause. He pointed out that both countries’ successful containment of the Covid-19 pandemic
and their economic recovery were proof of the advantages of the ruling parties and systems.
Trong, who was recently re-elected
as the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, said developing and strengthening traditional friendship with China had always been a top priority for his party and the state.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: lET US resolve OUR sea disputes without outside interference, xi TELLS HANOI