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Hanoi told to halt Xisha hype

2014-06-19 08:37 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

No breakthrough at highest-level talks since spat began

No breakthrough was made during the Wednesday meeting of Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, but experts hope tension between the nations will at least ease up.

At Vietnam's invitation, Yang co-hosted the chairmen's meeting of the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation in Hanoi, an inter-governmental mechanism set up for coordinating bilateral relations.

He also met with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong later on Wednesday.

"The difficulties China and Vietnam face at the moment are because Vietnam has continually illegally harassed Chinese drilling operations in the waters near the Xisha Islands for more than a month," Yang said during the meeting with Minh.

Yang stressed that the Xisha Islands are inherent territory of China and there are no disputes in this area. "The most urgent thing is for Vietnam to stop its interference and harassment, stop hyping up the issue and stop whipping up disagreement to create new disputes, and properly deal with the aftermath of the recent serious incidents of violence," Yang said.

No progress was made during the discussion, as the two sides insisted on their opposing positions, an anonymous Vietnamese official familiar with the talks was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Hainan Province, told the Global Times that it is predictable that Vietnam would insist on its stance as it claimed sovereignty over the Xisha Islands in a law passed in 2012.

"This one-time meeting alone can't solve all the problems the two countries face. However, the fact that these annual meetings have continued in spite of the South China Sea tension is already a good sign. It proves that both sides have a friendly intention to solve the dispute," said Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.

These are the highest-level talks between China and Vietnam after relations began to sour over the vessel ramming around the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig in May.

Vietnamese protests against the oil rig worsened into violent riots against Chinese nationals and businesses in southern and central Vietnam, which led to the deaths of four Chinese nationals. China has since announced the suspension of some bilateral exchange plans.

China's foreign ministry released substantial evidence earlier this month, including an official note from Vietnam's then-premier Pham Van Dong in 1958, to prove that Vietnam acknowledged China's sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and the Nansha Islands at the time. Vietnam later reneged on its words.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Dung said last month that Vietnam was considering legal action against China over the disputed waters.

"Vietnam needs to assess the impact on itself if they sue China, as the [previous] evidence will prove China's claim. Vietnam stands more to lose in a bitter bilateral relationship with China. It should remain calm and exercise restraint to solve the disputes via negotiations," Wu noted.

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