China and Vietnam should refrain from unilateral actions related to the South China Sea (Vietnam calls it the East Sea) that could complicate the situation and exaggerate disputes, China’s foreign ministry said, citing senior diplomat Wang Yi as saying with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh.
State Councilor Wang Yi held talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh during his visit to Vietnam, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Wang’s visit to Vietnam, part of his week-long tour of Southeast Asia, comes about two weeks after US Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to the region.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said during a meeting with the Chinese ambassador just hours before Harris’s visit that Vietnam does not align itself with one country to oppose another.
China says it has historic sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, but its neighbors and the United States say that claim has no basis in international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a signatory party.
Beijing’s claims overlap with Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, as well as those of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. Trillions of dollars of annual trade pass through this waterway, which also has rich fishing grounds and gas fields.
Wang said the two countries should cherish the hard-won peace and stability in the South China Sea and be wary of interference by powers outside the region, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said in a government statement that it is important that the two countries respect each other’s legitimate rights and interests, in accordance with international law and UNCLOS.
The two sides agreed to continue to strictly adhere to common perceptions at high levels, manage disagreements, avoid complicating the situation or expanding disputes, and jointly maintain peace and stability in the disputed seas, the Vietnamese government said.
Vietnam said China will donate 3 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam this year, bringing the total number of vaccines China has donated to the country to 5.7 million doses.
Along with Mr. Wang’s visit, Vietnam’s Defense Minister on Saturday met with his Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi during Mr. Kishi’s first overseas trip after taking up the post last year, Kyodo news agency reported.
Japan and Vietnam have signed an agreement to allow the export of Japanese-made defense equipment and technology to the Southeast Asian country to “promote cooperation in the context of China’s increasingly assertive regional waters,” Kyodo said.
The agreement was signed last year during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Vietnam.
“Japan will accelerate negotiations with Vietnam to sell Self-Defense Forces ships,” Kishi was quoted as saying by Kyodo.
The two ministers also agreed on the importance of maintaining peace, security and freedom of navigation and overflight, Kyodo reported.