HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Japan will provide Vietnam with six vessels as part of a grant aid package that will boost Hanoi's maritime security patrol capacity at a time the country is locked in a territorial standoff with China in the South China Sea.
The deal announced Friday for the six used vessels worth 500 million Yen ($5 million) was signed by Vietnam's Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is on a two-day visit for a cooperation conference.
"We hope this will help strengthen the maritime law enforcement capability of Vietnam," Kishida told journalists at a news conference with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh.
The deal comes as Vietnam-China relations plunged to their worst point in years following China's deployment of a giant oil rig in early May near the Paracel islands also claimed by Vietnam.
China sent a large flotilla of ships to protect the oil rig and Vietnam also dispatched its coast guard and fisheries patrol vessels to try to force away the oil rig and much larger Chinese vessels.
China moved the oil rig in mid-July, a month ahead of its planned pullout, citing the beginning of the typhoon season and saying that its drilling mission was finished.
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said he and Kishida agreed that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully.
Minh said the two sides agreed that maintaining peace and navigational security at sea is in the interests of the international community and that disputes should be resolved through dialogue.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, bringing it into conflict with others in the region.
Japan is also locked in a territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea over a group of uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China..