BEIJING (AP) — China and Vietnam agreed to resume military ties and better manage their maritime disputes in the first signs that tensions over territorial claims could be easing.
Despite fraternal ties between their ruling Communist parties, relations between the two countries grew tense this year after China deployed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Hanoi. The vessels of the two sides rammed each other near the rig, and there were deadly anti-China riots in several industrial parks in Vietnam, leading to an exodus of thousands of Chinese workers.
During a visit to China this week, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said it was "extremely necessary" to maintain a healthy and stable relationship to settle disputes, the Vietnamese People's Army newspaper said Saturday.
Thanh said the military forces should practice restraint, closely control activities at sea and avoid use of force or threats to use force, the newspaper said.
In a meeting with Thanh in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao called on the two countries to enhance political trust and manage maritime disputes, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
Thanh also met with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, and both sides decided to resume military ties and "play a positive role" in handling the disputes, the news agency said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, meanwhile, met his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, on Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan, Italy, Xinhua said. The two agreed to properly handle maritime differences and keep bilateral ties on the right track, it said.
At the same time, highlighting the complexity of shifting alliances in the region, Vietnam has been reaching out to the United States, which says it has an interest in the maintaince of peace and stability and freedom of navigation and earlier this month announced it was partially lifting a ban on weapons sales on Hanoi.
Associated Press writer Minh V. Tran in Hanoi has contributed to the report.