China and Vietnam held "candid" talks on Tuesday about control of disputed islands in potentially oil-rich waters claimed by both nations. Both sides signed an agreement that seeks a peaceful resolution for the dispute.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and visiting Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong "spoke positively" about settling the dispute.
According to Chinese official news agency Xinhua, President Hu said that neither China nor Vietnam should take any action to "magnify or complicate the disputes, but instead deal with problems in a calm and constructive fashion," while calling on both sides to mull joint exploration of the waters and take tangible steps as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Mr. Trong said the maritime issues are just one part of Vietnam-China relations and that Vietnam would work with Beijing to implement the joint agreement.
Last week, a Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman said that "settling disputes in the East Sea is a long-term, difficult and complicated process requiring efforts and a practical and objective approach by both sides."
Sino-Vietnamese relations plunged to their lowest point in years in May and June when Vietnam accused Chinese vessels of interfering with its oil survey ships inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
Report: China, Vietnam hold 'candid' talks on disputed seas (AFP, 11 Oct 2011)
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and his Vietnamese counterpart Ho Xuan Son signed the agreement while Mr. Trong, in China for a five-day visit, held conciliatory talks with President Hu.
Under the agreement, China and Vietnam would handle maritime disputes through negotiations and amicable consultations. Both sides agreed to open a hotline to handle maritime flashpoints and hold border negotiation discussions twice a year. Xinhua reported, "The two countries should remain committed to friendly consultations in order to properly handle maritime issues and make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation."
The reconciliation effort could ease tensions in the region, which saw Beijing pitted against South-east Asian states that have turned to the US to balance Chinese military clout. As a result of tensions, the Vietnamese government has allowed rare street protests against China's behaviour. The Philippines has also accused China of interference, and both Vietnam and the Philippines have sought and obtained US support for their claims.
Report: China and Vietnam sign agreement to cool sea dispute (Reuters, 11 Oct 2011)
Report: Vietnam, China Sign Accord On Maritime Issues (VOA, 11 Oct 2011)