China and Vietnam to establish working group to discuss sea issues

China and Vietnam to establish working group to discuss sea issues
Premier Li Keqiang and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung chat as they walk in the garden of the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday. The two countries announced the establishment of a joint working group on sea development.

'Breakthrough' could help China, Vietnam handle disputes

China and Vietnam will establish a bilateral working group to discuss joint maritime development, a move analysts said is a "breakthrough" for the neighbours to peacefully handle disputes.

The countries will establish two other working groups regarding infrastructure and financial cooperation, Premier Li Keqiang and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung told reporters at a news conference after their talks on Sunday.

The operations of the three working groups will start this year, and the establishment of the maritime joint development working group "in particular sends a positive signal of the bilateral readiness for solving difficult problems through cooperation", Li told Dung during the talks.

"We are satisfied with the contents of the talks and speak highly of them," Dung told reporters at the news conference.

The relationship between Vietnam and China has been overshadowed by maritime frictions in the South China Sea.

Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said seeking a solution to maritime disputes has been a "major headache" in the past few years for not only China but also for some members of ASEAN such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

"Hanoi has already realised that it is unrealistic to count on Washington to give public support to its claims on some islands.

"Therefore, putting aside bickering on sovereignty and sitting at the table for joint development is a pragmatic choice," Jia said.

The two countries have already established a preliminary joint working group to push forward joint development in the waters outside the mouth of the Beibu Gulf. The first round of talks of the group began in May last year.

Li is on his first Southeast Asian tour after he became premier in March. The trip has taken him to Brunei and Thailand.

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