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Li underlines Vietnam ties

By Li Xiaokun and Zhang Yunbi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-05-11 08:33:20

 Li underlines Vietnam ties

Premier Li Keqiang meets visiting Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan in Beijing on Friday. Xu Jingxing / China Daily

Li underlines Vietnam ties

Talks highlight how Beijing, Hanoi have great potential in cooperation

China and Vietnam on Friday agreed to properly handle the South China Sea issue, as Premier Li Keqiang met a high-ranking Vietnamese official.

Forging good bilateral relations is the joint wish of the peoples of the two neighboring countries, but that "needs good conditions", Li told Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan at Zhongnanhai, the central government's headquarters in downtown Beijing.

Nguyen is in the Chinese capital to preside over the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation with State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

Li said "both sides should well control and handle their disparities on the South China Sea issue, and not let it disturb the development of bilateral ties and cooperation", according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

Beijing's ties with Hanoi have been overshadowed by their territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

The Vietnamese National Assembly last year passed the Law of the Sea, which puts China's Xisha and Nansha islands in Vietnam's territory.

Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said some of Vietnam's actions have broken its promise of keeping stability in the South China Sea.

"For instance, Vietnam has encouraged illegal fishing in the area and required support from powers not involved in the South China Sea issue, only to make the situation worse and more complex."

Still, the Chinese premier on Friday called Vietnam an "important and close neighbor".

"China and Vietnam see each other's development as an opportunity," Li said, calling for the two nations to view bilateral ties from "a strategic and comprehensive height".

Nguyen told Li that Vietnam is willing to properly handle the South China Sea issue and beef up the traditional friendship, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges with China.

Jia Duqiang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Li has conveyed two messages to Vietnam - that Vietnam should stop further complicating the territorial dispute, and that Beijing and Hanoi have great potential in cooperation if they can handle the ties well.

"Though Vietnam has asked for help from the United States to counterbalance China, it is fully aware that this is not easy to achieve," Jia said.

He noted the fact that China is Vietnam's biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade exceeding $40 billion in 2012. The volume is expected to reach $60 billion by 2015.

Deals at the China-Vietnam Border Economic and Trade Fair 2012 held in November reached $347 million, up 142 percent compared with the figure for 2010.

Besides, Vietnam is in need of more foreign investment to improve its infrastructure. Hanoi is reforming its investment restrictions on private capital for transportation projects.

With more than 16,000 students in China, Vietnam is now the fourth-largest source country for China in terms of overseas students.

(China Daily 05/11/2013 page7)

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