China has reported a pact with Vietnam on their growing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
According to the China Foreign Ministry, the countries will resolve their ongoing conflict “through negotiations and friendly consultations,” though no detail was provided on how or when these negotiations would take place.
The pact comes after China state councilor Dai Bingguo met Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son in Beijing on Saturday.
The two countries agreed to work toward an agreement on addressing maritime disputes, as well as seek speedy implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a pact signed in 2002 between China and ASEAN to prevent conflict.
However, Vietnamese officials have not commented on China’s announcement. Anti-Chinese demonstrations in Hanoi were allowed to continue on Sunday for the fourth straight week, as protestors accused China of invading Vietnam’s territorial waters.
Report & Analysis: China, Vietnam vow to cool S. China sea tensions [AFP, 26 June 2011]
At the same time, the United States and the Philippines have readied themselves for joint naval exercises in the face of Chinese actions, planning to hold naval exercises starting Tuesday in a show of unity.
On Saturday, the United States called for China to cool tensions over the disputed territory, maintaining its pledge to defend its longtime ally the Philippines. We are determined and committed to supporting the defence of the Philippines,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
However, China has told the US to stay out of its regional disputes, rejecting calls for multilateral talks on the South China Sea and insisting on one-on-one contact with other claimants.
“I believe the individual countries are actually playing with fire,” said Cui Tiankai, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, “and I hope the fire will not be drawn to the United States.”
Opinion: A U.S. role in the South China Sea [Washington Post, 27 June 2011]
Vietnam and the Philippines have appeared to closely align themselves with the US in the ongoing dispute.
Vietnam has issued a joint statement with the US calling for freedom of navigation of the seas, while the Philippines has praised a strong US naval presence in the region. The US Navy has also said it will conduct joint training exercises with both the Philippines and Vietnam over the next two months.
Report & Analysis: US tells China at Honolulu talks in wants stability in South China Sea[Bloomberg, 27 June 2011]
These actions are in line with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ pledge to increase US influence in Asia, a statement he made at the IISS Shangri-la Security Summit several weeks ago.
However, some analysts say US efforts to internationalise the conflict have provoked an increasingly belligerent response from China, who has worked to upgrade its military in recent years and made more strident declarations of its claims.
Report & Analysis: Beijing reports pact on seas [WSJ, 27 June 2011]