China, Vietnam set up naval hotline

Updated: 2013-06-07 02:49


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The defense ministries of China and Vietnam have agreed to establish a naval hotline, Hanoi's deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

Analysts said the move signals a stronger will for communication and cooperation between the two neighbors, whose ties have been strained by maritime disputes.

Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam's deputy defense minister, said that despite the current controversies, a peaceful and secure maritime environment in the South China Sea should be nurtured by the military of both countries.

"Without a peaceful environment in the disputed waters, which is the basis for bilateral discussions, it would be a disaster for the two nations as well as for the region and the world," he said.

Nguyen, who was in Beijing for the seventh China-Vietnam consultation on defense and security, said Vietnam supports China's development instead of being concerned about it.

Experts welcomed the hotline, but said Beijing still needs to closely watch what measures Hanoi will take to guarantee peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said any improper actions by Vietnam's military forces in related waters would greatly damage bilateral relations.

In a meeting with Nguyen on Wednesday, Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, urged Vietnam to evaluate bilateral ties from a strategic and overall perspective, and meet China halfway.

"Amid rapid changes in international and regional situation, it is significant that the two countries hold talks on defense and security issues, seek effective control of the current disputes and solutions to related issues," Qi said.

Nguyen said the defense talks, an annual activity, reflected the urgency of bilateral military communication, confronted by "very complicated and very intense" maritime problems.

"Cooperation is still the mainstream," he said. "On the basis of cooperation, the two governments can face divergences and disputes together."

Vietnam's prime minister last week called for Southeast Asian countries to stay united and strong in terms of disputes in the South China Sea, urging the 10 ASEAN members not to be "forced to take sides with one country or the other for the benefit of their own relationships with big powers".

Stressing the need for "strategic trust", Nguyen Tan Dung made the remarks in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum in Singapore organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Reuters reported.

Nguyen dispelled rhetoric of Vietnam aligning with other nations to counter China, saying such a strategy does not exist.