Vietnam News

China, Vietnam agree to boost trust amid South China Sea tensions

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  • Senior officials pledge to ‘strengthen strategic communication [and] deepen pragmatic cooperation’ at defence meeting in southern China
  • At separate event, countries’ defence ministers agree to deepen cooperation between their land border militaries

China and Vietnam have agreed to work together to improve trust amid simmering tensions between the two neighbours over their territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The commitment was made at a defence and security consultation in the south China city of Dongxing on Friday, according to a statement issued by the Chinese defence ministry the same day.

At the event, Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of the joint staff department at China’s Central Military Commission, told Vietnam’s deputy defence minister Hoang Xuan Chien that the two militaries should “strengthen strategic communication [and] deepen pragmatic cooperation … to address risks and challenges [and] push forward the traditional friendship between China and Vietnam”.

Chien acknowledged the “deep friendship” between the two nations and said Vietnam’s military was willing to “strengthen strategic mutual trust with China and make a greater contribution to the comprehensive strategic partnership”.

The statement said the two sides had a “frank and in-depth exchange of views” on the international and regional security situation, and the relationship between their militaries. It did not elaborate.

However, Vietnam News Agency reported that the countries’ disputes in the South China Sea were a main focus for the talks, with Chien stressing the waterway’s “strategic importance in economy, trade and defence security”.

Countries should “work together to maintain peace and stability” and maritime disputes should be resolved in a peaceful way, he said.

“[Countries] should manage maritime disputes and not take any actions to complicate the situation in the East Sea, nor use force or threat of force,” he said, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea.

Also on Friday, China commissioned an amphibious assault ship, which is expected to be deployed in the South China Sea. A ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping was held at a naval base in Sanya, Hainan province. The type 075 vessel is thought to be able to carry 30 helicopters and hundreds of troops.

China has clashed repeatedly with Vietnam and other claimants to territory in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son that the two countries should “properly deal with maritime issues”.

On Saturday, China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Phan Van Giang at a site on the border between the two countries. The two sides pledged to deepen cooperation between their border militaries and work together to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Laura Zhou  – The South China Morning Post – April 25, 2021

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