HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's prime minister said Wednesday that the communist country will do its best to develop good relations with China, but at the same time will defend its sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea.
"We sincerely do our utmost to strengthen friendship, mutual beneficial cooperation and mutual development with China in all fields," Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly. "At the same time, I want to emphasize, we are determined to defend our independence, territorial sovereignty and national interests ... especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982."
The prime minister also called for a boost in national defense and security, and international support for its national construction and defense.
Vietnam and China along with several other countries are locked in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where recent Chinese land reclamation projects have raised concerns.
On Tuesday, National Assembly member Truong Trong Nghia challenged the prime minister about Vietnam's economic dependence on China, and said Vietnam should not receive loans or aid from China, saying that makes it harder to negotiate with China over territorial disputes.
Relations between the two communist neighbors plunged to their lowest point in years following the parking of a Chinese giant oil rig near the Paracels islands last year.
The incident sparked widespread anti-China protests in Vietnam, and several Chinese nationals were killed in the riots.
The countries have since tried to mend ties, with high-level exchanges of visits including the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month where China provided Vietnam with a grant of 1 billion yuan (about $155 million) to build schools and hospitals, and signed two bank loans worth more than $500 million.