China and Vietnam have agreed to “properly manage” their differences over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and “safeguard stability” after an international tribunal rejected the Chinese claims over the region on a petition brought before it by the Phillipines.
The decision came after talks between Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. Phuc’s visit to China is the first by a top Vietnamese leader after the tribunal verdict on July 12.
China had rejected the verdict by The Hague-based tribunal, which has said that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.”
China is now persuading other claimants – Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – to settle the disputes bilaterally, without approaching for international arbitration. State-run Xinhua reported that China and Vietnam have agreed “to properly manage maritime differences and further enhance bilateral substantial cooperation” after Phuc-Li talks last night.
Li and Phuc witnessed the signing of agreements on economy and trade, production capacity, infrastructure and education, the report said, without giving details. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters that the two leaders had a “good” conversation and the new government of Vietnam shows “positive willingness” to further develop relations with China.
During the talks, Li told Phuc that the SCS issue is related to territorial sovereignty, maritime interests as well as national sentiment. “China and Vietnam need to work together to abide by agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries, safeguard stability in the South China Sea, and build consensus to advance bilateral ties and safeguard maritime and regional peace,” Li said.
Phuc said Vietnam would like to properly resolve maritime issues with China in the spirit of equality and mutual respect and in a peaceful way, the report said. He suggested the two sides manage their differences, conduct maritime cooperation in areas of low sensitivity and maintain a stable situation in the South China Sea to prevent the maritime issue from casting a shadow over bilateral ties.
Phuc is leading the largest Vietnamese delegation ever to China, consisting 32 ministerial officials and other delegates, Liu said.
His visit to China comes in the back drop of this month’s visit to Hanoi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the two countries agreed to step up their ties form strategic partnership to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
Officials here say by stepping up ties with India, US and Japan, the Communist Vietnam is trying to balance ties to increase leverage with China.
Li also suggested that China, Vietnam carry out cultural and people-to-people exchanges and enhance cooperation in areas including defence and law enforcement.