Beijing and Hanoi should make joint efforts to manage their disputes in the South China Sea, China’s top diplomat has said.
On the sidelines of a regional foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesian capital Jakarta on Thursday, Wang Yi, Beijing’s foreign policy chief, also said China was willing to import more goods from the Southeast Asian neighbour.
“The two sides should follow the important consensus … on the proper handling of maritime issues, actively put it into action, pay more attention to mutually beneficial cooperation, give full play to the role of the existing mechanisms, manage the situation well and promote cooperation, so as to provide stable expectations for the development of China-Vietnam relations,” Wang told Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son.
He said China was “ready” to work with Asean members for an early conclusion of the code of conduct (COC) for the South China Sea, a set of rules aimed at managing behaviour and minimising the potential for conflict in the resource-rich waters. The region is criss-crossed by overlapping claims from China as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.
At the same time, China would continue to improve its communication with Vietnam to “consolidate strategic mutual trust and expand cooperation of mutual benefit”, Wang said.
Thursday’s meeting came after fraught tensions over the disputed waters boiled over again.
Last week, Hanoi banned the movie Barbie produced by Warner Bros over an illustration in the film that allegedly depicts the nine-dash line, a controversial symbol Beijing has used to claim as much as 90 per cent of the South China Sea.
The territorial disputes have become a mounting source of friction between the two neighbours despite their shared political ideologies and structures.
In a milestone during long-delayed talks, China and Asean announced on Thursday the conclusion of the second reading of the COC, paving the way for negotiations on more contentious issues, including if the rules would be legally binding and the geographical scope they would be applied to.
On Thursday, Wang urged that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “further facilitate bilateral trade and investment” by coordinating each other’s development strategies and improving connectivity infrastructure, including the east line of the Pan-Asian Railway, a planned railway to connect China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
“China is willing to import more marketable Vietnamese products,” Wang told Son.
According to a readout from the Vietnamese side, Son said his country would work with China to keep pushing forward their comprehensive strategic partnership.
Vietnam is keen to boost exports to China, and is willing to manage issues including the maritime disputes, he said, according to the Chinese readout.
Earlier this month, diplomats from China and Vietnam met in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for the latest round of consultations for maritime joint development, their first in-person meeting since 2020.
According to the Chinese readout, the two sides agreed to speed up talks on a new fisheries cooperation deal in the Gulf of Tonkin, and promote oil and gas cooperation in “non-disputed waters” in the South China Sea.
But observers said there was little room for compromise on oil and gas cooperation, and that hopes between the two rival claimants remained dim given their long-standing disputes.
Source: The Star