Vietnam, China agree to keep talking in South China Sea dispute

Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung (left) meets China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 27, 2019.
Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung (left) meets China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 27, 2019.PHOTO: AP

HANOI (DPA) - Vietnam and China agreed on Friday (Nov 29) to keep talking and take steps towards peacefully resolving the conflict over the South China Sea, which has seen tensions rising in the region in recent months.

The announcement came after a three-day diplomatic visit to China by Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr Le Hoai Trung, who held talks with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng in Beijing.

While the ministers stopped short of saying they expected tensions to cease, they agreed to "resolve conflicts in an appropriate and peaceful manner", according to a press release from Vietnam's foreign affairs ministry.

"The two sides agreed to maintain mechanisms to discuss sea-related issues and to cooperate with each other in organising activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations next year," the statement added.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea as its territory and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over reefs and outcrops in the area, which are also claimed in part by Vietnam.

Oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea is a highly fraught issue in both China and Vietnam, which saw a series of violent disputes between 1974 and 1988 over control of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

In 2014, anti-Chinese sentiment boiled over in Vietnam and sparked deadly attacks against Chinese-owned factories and businesses after a Chinese drilling rig entered the disputed waters.

Most recently, tensions have soared between Beijing and Hanoi as Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 repeatedly violated Vietnam's exclusive economic zone while searching for oil and gas reserves.