Vietnam, Philippines to boost East Sea cooperation

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Vietnam and the Philippines have agreed to boost maritime cooperation for the purposes of maintaining peace, security and free navigation of the East Sea.

During his three-day state visit to the Philippines beginning Wednesday (October 26), Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Philippine President Benigno Aquino witnessed the signing of four agreements, including a five-year cooperation plan through 2016, a memorandum on cooperation and sharing information between the two countries' navies, the establishment of a hotline between the Vietnam Marine Police and Philippine Coast Guard, and a five-year tourism cooperation plan.

At a joint news conference in Manila on Wednesday, President Sang and President Aquino pressed for a "zone of peace" in the disputed East Sea, also known as South China Sea.

The Philippine president said he and his Vietnamese counterpart "reaffirmed the importance of the maintenance of peace, stability, maritime safety and security in the region."

Sang promised his government's support for Manila's proposal for a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation in the East Sea. The proposal will complement implementing guidelines of an informal code of conduct by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Reuters reported Wednesday.

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"We again confirmed the importance of the maintenance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea," Sang said, adding that he hoped ASEAN would come up with a binding code.

Aquino has been trying to get Southeast Asian neighbors to form a united front against China's claims of sovereignty over 80 percent of the sea, including waters lapping the coasts of some of these other countries, AFP reported Wednesday.

The Philippines has accused the Chinese military of aggressive acts in the Philippine-claimed areas of the South China Sea this year, including firing on Filipino fishermen, laying buoys and harassing an oil exploration vessel.

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