Beijing and Hanoi called for effectively managing maritime disputes on Thursday during President Xi Jinping's first visit to Vietnam to repair ties strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Xi appealed, in an article published on Thursday in the local official newspaper Nhan Dan, to seek a "basic, permanent approach that is acceptable to both sides" in regard to the maritime disputes.
"In that process, the two sides should maintain maritime stability and discuss ways of maritime co-operation to create favourable conditions for bilateral ties," Xi was quoted as saying in the article, emphasizing mutual understanding and friendly dialogue to "handle existing problems in a proper manner".
He urged better use of the existing bilateral boundary negotiation mechanism in resolving maritime disputes, drawing references from experience when defining land boundaries and settling disputes in the Beibu Gulf, a semi-enclosed sea whose delineation remains under negotiation between China and Vietnam.
During a meeting with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, Xi proposed that the two sides jointly push forward maritime co-operation and the development of the disputed maritime area.
"Negotiation is the right approach, and through gradually making consensus, the two sides can expand mutual interests," he said.
Trong stressed that the friendship has grown over the years and agreed to effectively handle disputes with China.
China and Vietnam share land borders of more than 1,300 kilometers in southern China, and the two countries have been in dispute over territorial issues in the South China Sea.
After the meeting, the two leaders witnessed the signing of deals in areas including trade, finance and infrastructure construction.
Beijing and Hanoi will initiate a feasibility study of a railway connecting Hanoi with Lao Cai, a northern city on the border with China, and Haiphong, Vietnam's third-largest city. The rail line is expected to be about 381 kilometers long, with an investment of $4.4 billion, according to the Economic and Commercial Counselor's Office of the Chinese embassy in Vietnam.
Xi's visit to Vietnam comes ahead of a leadership shuffle in Vietnam due to take place early next year at a high-level meeting of the CPV. The two countries are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Xu Liping, a senior researcher in Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi's visit, ahead of Vietnam's leadership shuffle, will play a role in Sino-Vietnam relations in the next five years.
Bui Hong Phuc, vice-chairman of the Vietnam-China Friendship Association, said Vietnam is seeking to improve co-operation and the stability of bilateral ties through the visit.
Deals and agreements that were reached during Xi's visit
1. A cadres training plan between the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of Vietnam over the next five years
2. An agreement of free travel of ships at the mouth of the Beilun River
3. An agreement on the mutual establishment of cultural centres
4. A memorandum of understanding on promotion of co-operation on production capacity
5. A memorandum of understanding on infrastructure co-operation
6. An agreement on aiding and conducting a feasibility study of a HanoiLao Cai-Haiphong railway project