China, Vietnam to Speed Up South China Sea Talks

Posted September 8th, 2011 at 3:05 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say China and Vietnam have agreed to speed up negotiations over their South China Sea dispute with a goal of signing a formal agreement as soon as possible.

The official Xinhua news agency says the commitment was made during meetings in Hanoi this week between China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo and senior Vietnamese officials. Both sides stressed during the talks their desire to find a peaceful resolution to the increasingly bitter dispute.

Xinhua said the two countries have agreed to settle their differences in accordance with international law and a 2002 declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asian and Chinese officials agreed in July on guidelines that spell out how that declaration should be implemented. China, Taiwan and four ASEAN countries have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Xinhua said earlier that Dai — China's top diplomat — had conveyed to the Vietnamese a message from President Hu Jintao stressing the great importance that China attaches to friendly cooperation with Vietnam.

The agency said the countries agreed that under the “current complex international background,” stable relations were in the interest of both nations.

Vietnam has complained that on at least two occasions this year, Chinese vessels have interfered with oil and gas exploration activities in waters claimed by Vietnam as its exclusive economic zone. China says its actions were justified because it holds sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines has also complained of Chinese interference, and both it and Vietnam have looked to the United States for support.

The dispute sparked more than two months of weekly anti-China protests in Hanoi. Vietnamese authorities moved to stop the protests shortly before Dai's visit.