Vietnam, China agree to boost ties

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Vietnam and China agreed to comprehensively boost strategic cooperation during Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Hanoi from December 20-22.

Xi, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met with Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan and Le Hong Anh, Politburo member and permanent member of the Party Central Committee Secretariat on Wednesday.

The two sides have agreed to increase the frequency of visits and contacts between senior leaders and to maintain close cooperation between the two Parties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

They agreed to boost the 2011-2015 cooperation plan between the two Parties and cooperation between Party agencies and promoting the role of the steering committee on Vietnam-China bilateral cooperation.

Economically, the two countries agreed to cooperate on narrowing Vietnam's trade deficit and setting a new target for bilateral trade for 2011-2015.

China has committed to provide new preferential credits worth US$300 million to the Vietnamese government for the construction of infrastructure and other cooperative ventures.

China pledged to grant 300 scholarships to train Vietnamese government personnel in 2012.

Referring the East Sea disputes at the meeting, Vietnam affirmed that it is ready to solve differences through peaceful negotiations, respecting and with concern for the legitimate interests both nations have in maintaining peace, stability, friendship and cooperation in the region.

The solution will be based on common perceptions agreed upon by the senior leaders of both countries and international law, specifically the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

The two sides agreed to instruct their negotiation delegations to strictly implement the Agreement on fundamental principles guiding settlement of issues on the sea.

The meeting also witnessed the two countries sign cooperative documents on health, information and communications, between respective youth leagues and agreements on China's provision of preferential credit loans to bilateral economic cooperation projects.

Xi met with Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, President Truong Tan Sang and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung on the same day.

Mark Valencia, a marine analyst at the National Bureau of Asian Research in the US, said Xi's visit to Hanoi "could be an important meeting in the tug of war between China and the US for Vietnam's "˜heart and mind.'"

"In that sense the US and some ASEAN [countries] will be watching closely," Valencia said.

The Chinese government has expressed worry about the US' recent burst of diplomatic activity and enhanced military ties in the region, which some commentators call a strategy to encircle and contain China.

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