Vietnam News

Vietnam tells China they must respect each other’s maritime rights and interests

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President To Lam also calls on Beijing to further open market for Vietnamese produce during talks with Chinese envoy Xiong Bo

Vietnam’s newly elected leader To Lam says relations with China are a priority but that the two nations need to respect each other’s maritime rights and interests.

Lam, who took office three weeks ago, made the remarks during a meeting with Chinese ambassador Xiong Bo in Hanoi on Tuesday.

Lam also called on China to further open its market for Vietnamese produce and said Hanoi stands ready to boost bilateral exchanges, including between high-ranking officials.

“Vietnam regards friendly relations and cooperation with China as a strategic choice and priority in its foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralisation and diversification,” Lam said, according to the foreign ministry’s official news agency The World & Vietnam Report.

The Vietnamese president said the “traditional friendship” between the two neighbours was characterised by comradeship and brotherhood, which should be preserved, inherited and promoted.

Beijing and Hanoi have long clashed over their rival claims to the South China Sea. In the latest flare-up, Vietnam’s foreign ministry on Thursday said it was deeply concerned over the presence of a Chinese survey vessel in its exclusive economic zone.

“Both sides need to strictly implement high-level agreements and common perceptions, better control and resolve disagreements at sea, respect each other’s legitimate rights and interests,” Lam told Xiong, referring to their territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Hanoi calls the East Sea.

He said the two sides should “actively seek satisfactory solutions in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

A recent report from the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies claimed that Vietnam had rapidly expanded its dredging and landfill operations in the South China Sea over the past six months.

In April, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Hanoi to use “political wisdom” to manage its ties with Beijing, during talks with Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam. Hue said Hanoi would stick to an independent and autonomous foreign policy.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Xiong said China would “work to better control and resolve disagreements at sea” and that it anticipated the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two nations would develop in a “healthy and stable manner” and bring “practical benefits” to their people.

“China will strive to properly implement the high-level common perceptions, effectively deploy cooperation measures devised by the two countries, further promote win-win cooperation across regions, and better control and resolve sea-related differences,” Xiong said, according to the Vietnamese report.

During the Chinese president’s visit to Hanoi in December, some 37 cooperation agreements were signed, spanning trade, security and infrastructure. Lam on Tuesday said he expected to push forward cross-border railway links and to work with China to develop standard-gauge railway lines in the northern provinces of Vietnam.

Lam was previously deputy head of Hanoi’s steering committee on anti-corruption, playing a central role in a crackdown known as “Blazing Furnace”, which observers have said was inspired by Beijing’s own anti-graft campaign.

With next year marking the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Vietnam, Lam on Tuesday also urged the two sides to elevate relations to new heights.

By Cyril Ip – The South China Morning Post – June 12, 2024

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