BEIJING - China and Vietnam have agreed to speed up negotiations on South China Sea related disputes and work out a mutually agreeable solution as early as possible.
The two countries agreed to solve the maritime problem through negotiations and peaceful, friendly consultations, according to a press release from the fifth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website on Thursday.
The two sides also agreed to intensify the efforts to speed up the negotiations and work out a mutually agreeable solution on the issue. They pledged to work hard to sign an agreement as early as possible, the release said.
Analysts said it's still too early to predict whether the two countries will settle the issue soon.
"Agreeing on signing an agreement shows some sincerity from Vietnam, but it should be taken into account that Vietnam has a record of eating its own words in interactions with China before," said Chu Hao, a researcher on Vietnamese studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
China has insisted on its indisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea, and it aims to solve the dispute on bilateral platforms. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also lay claim to some islands and reefs in the oil-rich area and seek support from the United States.
In July, shortly after Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said that disputes with China over the South China Sea should be resolved without any interference from a third party, the country conducted a week-long joint military exercise with the US.
A consensus was reached in July between China and ASEAN on implementing the 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea, both of which are non-binding. During Philippine President Benigno Aquino's visit to Beijing last week, the Philippines and China agreed on the need for a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
"China's willingness to sign an agreement with Vietnam to solve the maritime dispute just proves its sincerity to stay true to peaceful development," Chu said.
Tuesday's meeting in Hanoi, co-chaired by State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhanm, was also viewed as paving the way for a visit to China by Vietnam's new Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, possibly later this year, according to Reuters.
At the meeting, the two sides also discussed further cooperation plans for the next phase, agreed to boost coordination in regional affairs and to promote China-ASEAN relations.
The committee, which is designed to coordinate China-Vietnam cooperation in various fields and address major issues, meets once a year.
Dai is on a five-day visit to Vietnam, scheduled to conclude on Friday, during which he has held meetings with Trong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Trong said forming a friendly and cooperative relationship with China is a priority in Vietnam's long-term strategy. Vietnam would like to work with China to further enhance mutual trust, step up all-round cooperation and properly handle disputes concerning the South China Sea, he said.
Zhang Yunbi contributed to this story.
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