Vietnam and China agreed to accelerate joint surveys at sea off the Gulf of Tonkin, their top diplomats said, highlighting that satisfactory solutions to maritime issues are crucial for bilateral relations.
The two countries will foster mechanisms to negotiate sea-related issues, according to a statement issued after a meeting between Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Hanoi Monday.
The joint surveys off the Gulf of Tonkin will be carried out based on “the principles of starting small and progressing one step at a time,” according to a Vietnam News Agency (VNA) report after the meeting.
Yang’s visit, the second within five months, came as the two countries have sought to patch up bilateral, which was damaged by China’s deployment in May of a drilling platform in waters within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the East Sea, also known as South China Sea.
China claims about 90 percent of the East Sea under a map based on what it claimed to be "historical facts," a territory which extends hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island and takes in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, both of which are claimed by Vietnam.
China moved the US$1 billion rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981, out of the area on July 15, claiming its activities were complete.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (R) and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi. Photo: Le Quan.
A month later, during a visit to China by Le Hong Anh, Special Envoy of the Vietnamese communist party chief, the two sides agreed to “restore cooperative exchanges, firmly control sea-related disagreements and avoid actions that may complicate and broaden disputes,” according to a VNA report.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang also agreed to “address and control” maritime disputes during their meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Italy on Oct. 16.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was important for both sides to “seriously” and “quickly” fulfil their commitments.
“The stable and sound development” of Vietnam-China relations would “meet the aspiration and fundamental interests of the two peoples and for the benefit of peace, stability and development of the region,” said the statement on the ministry’s website.
Both countries “agreed to make joint efforts to seriously implement the agreements,” it said.
They also agreed to “refrain from actions that may complicate and expand disputes.”
The VNA report quoted Yang, who outranks the foreign minister, as saying that his country attached the utmost importance to its friendship and cooperation with Vietnam.
Yang pledged to instruct the relevant Chinese agencies to actively implement the agreements reached during the meeting, the report said.