BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Vietnam have pledged to look for a peaceful resolution to their dispute in the South China Sea via talks, following a meeting between China’s president and the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.
A joint communique carried by Xinhua said that both countries had a “candid” exchange of views on their maritime spat.
But the two countries agreed to “use well the Sino-Vietnam government border negotiation mechanism, uphold friendly consultations and negotiations to look for a basic and lasting resolution both countries can accept”, the statement said.
China and Vietnam should also “proactively look for transitional resolution methods which do not affect either side’s position, including looking at and discussing joint development”.
Neither country should do anything to “complicate or expand” the dispute in order to ensure peace and stability in the sea, the statement added.
Communist parties rule both countries and trade has swelled to $50 billion annually, but Vietnam has long been suspicious of its giant neighbor, especially over Beijing’s increasingly assertive claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam last year after a $1-billion deepwater rig owned by China’s state-run CNOOC oil company was parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.
Since then, however, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam, including sending senior officials to Hanoi.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, on Tuesday that the two countries must manage their dispute over the South China Sea well to maintain peace and stability.
Vietnam has strengthened its military relationship with old enemy the United States since the South China Sea dispute has heated up following Xi’s assumption of power in 2013, and Vietnam has also sought common ground with the Philippines on facing China over the spat.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters that are crossed by key global shipping lanes.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence