SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China and Vietnam have agreed to strengthen military cooperation, increase contacts between high-ranking officers and establish a hotline for the two defense ministries, in a bid to cool tensions between the Communist-ruled neighbors.
The two countries, which have a history of distrust, also agreed to launch a pilot project of joint patrols along their land border, continue joint naval patrols in the Beibu Gulf and increase mutual visits of naval warships, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, China and Vietnam signed an agreement seeking to contain a dispute over the South China Sea, a potentially oil and gas rich body of water spanned by key shipping lanes that sees the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan -- also stake conflicting claims of sovereignty over parts of the waters.
A joint statement by China and Vietnam was issued at the end of Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong's first visit to China this week where he held conciliatory talks with Hu Jintao, who is China's Communist Party chief and president.
The two countries also reaffirmed their political will to settle maritime issues through negotiations and friendly consultations, Xinhua said quoting the statement.
Both countries also said they will seek to achieve steady progress in negotiations regarding the maritime demarcation of the baymouth of the Beibu Gulf and discuss the joint development of the sea area, Xinhua said quoting the statement.
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)