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People's Daily Online

Vietnam must be sincere over maritime disputes

People's Daily Online

(People's Daily Online) 09:37, October 31, 2014

Vietnamese boats have harassed the Chinese drilling platform on the South China Sea. Violent attacks in Vietnam have entailed great losses to China-funded enterprises and caused casualties among Chinese. The Sino-Vietnamese relationship has been damaged as a result of such confrontations.

After the problems arose, both China and Vietnam took different measures to restore the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, along with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, met at the 7th conference of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation. This meeting provided new opportunities to enhance the comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership.

Set up in 2006, this mechanism is the crystallization of improved communication and cooperation between the two countries and it has overseen the development of the Sino-Vietnamese bilateral relationship. The committee is designed to guide, promote and plan for bilateral cooperation in different fields, and at the same time to resolve problems in cooperation.

This conference has had some positive effects. The two countries reiterated that they will stick to good-neighborly relations, friendship, and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Both countries have emphasized the importance of cooperation. In accordance with The Implementation of the China-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Action Plan, China and Vietnam plan to strengthen cooperation on party-to-party matters, foreign affairs, the military, law enforcement, culture, finance and infrastructure.

Furthermore, China and Vietnam have reached agreement on how to deal with disputes. Taking advantage of the bilateral governmental mechanism on border negotiation, the two country are willing to solve maritime disputes in ways that are lasting and acceptable to both sides. They also agreed to avoid taking any action that might complicate and aggravate the disputes, so as to safeguard China-Vietnam relations as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.

However, at the same time as the leaders of the two countries were meeting in Vietnam, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung began his state visit to India. Indian media announced that India might be joining with Vietnam to exploit the oilfields in the South China Sea.

China and Vietnam signed an agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues existing between the two countries in 2011. This agreement was regarded as positive progress in the course of maritime negotiations between China and Vietnam.

However, just a day after signing the agreement, Vietnam's state-owned energy corporation signed a 3-year agreement with India on exploitation of gas and oil in the South China Sea, heedless of any objection from China. The fields involved in the agreement between Vietnam and India cover disputed areas.

This conduct shows that the Vietnamese government has misunderstandings over its relationship with China and the South China Sea disputes.

On the one hand, Vietnam is aware that China is a vital neighbor, and could provide significant opportunities. Vietnam would find it hard to bear the consequences of a clash in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship. Therefore, it needs to stick with China.

On the other hand, Vietnam is reluctant to give up its short term interests. Vietnam was the first to conduct illegal exploration in the South China Sea and it has gained huge profits from extracting resources. Vietnam is adept at playing tricks with other countries to irritate China.

The wrong approach will not succeed in the long run. Playing tricks is not the right way to solve maritime disputes. It will only damage the Sino-Vietnamese relationship and hinder its long-term development. Vietnam should show sincerity in its relationship with China.

The article is edited and translated from《越南须为解决分歧拿出诚意(望海楼)》, source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, author: Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department for International and Strategic Studies at China Institute of International Studies.

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