HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping called for more mutual trust and cooperation with Vietnam in a speech to young people Friday on a visit intended to mend ties between the communist neighbors that have been strained by maritime disputes.
Speaking on the last day of his two-day visit, Xi said stronger cooperation and trust would aid both countries.
"The world and this region are undergoing profound and complex changes," he said. "China and Vietnam are facing both opportunities and challenges. Both sides should strengthen friendship, mutual-trusts and cooperation so as to boost common development."
Their relations plummeted when China parked an oil rig in disputed waters last year and the two have since been trying to repair ties with high-level visits.
China's claims over most of the South China Sea and its massive land reclamation in building seven artificial islands in the Spratly islands have rattled the region.
Xi, however, played down the concerns saying it will not seek to impose its influence all over the region.
"Chinese people advocate such belief, do not do to others what you would not have them do to you," he said.
"China rejects that a country should seek hegemony once it grows strong," he said adding, "China will deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, interconnection and interworking with neighboring countries including Vietnam, (and) will always be a close comrade with socialist countries, a reliable friend with developed countries."
In a rare address by a foreign head of state to the National Assembly, Xi said the two sides should take their overall interests in dealing with the sea disputes.
"It is an old Chinese saying that neighbors wish each other well, just as loved ones do to each other," he said.
"It's normal for neighbors to have rows, yet the two sides should always keep the overall interests of our relations in mind and properly control and manage our disputes through peaceful and friendly negotiation. We should prevent our relationship from sheering off the right course," he said.
The joint communique said the two countries agreed to "well control disputes at sea" and agreed "not to have acts that complicate, expand disputes and timely and properly handle arising issues, maintain peace, stability in the East Sea and Vietnam-China relations." East Sea is the Vietnamese term for the South China Sea.
Trade volume between the countries reached $58 billion last year and is aiming for $100 billion by 2017.
Xi was scheduled to travel on to Singapore later Friday where he will meet with Taiwan's leader, the first such meeting since Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949.