An ongoing dispute over territorial rights in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam may have cooled, following a Wednesday Beijing meeting between both countries, according to reports in Chinese state-run media.
“The visit is aimed at coming up with measures ‘to cool the situation,'” Le Hai Binh, spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Wednesday statement reported by the Xinhua news service.
Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official Liu Yunshan and Le Hong Anh, special envoy of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) hashed out a three point agreement that promised to:
“Implement a basic guideline for the resolution of China-Vietnam maritime issues signed in October 2011, make best use of the bilateral governmental border negotiation mechanism, seek basic and lasting solutions acceptable to both sides, study and discuss how to seek joint exploration of the South China Sea,” according to Xinhua.
The bilateral agreement follows months of tension after China sent the $1 billion Haiyang Shiyou 981 oilrig inside Vietnamese controlled waters in early May.
The state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) rig began searching for oil in waters both countries claim as their own.
China sent around 80 ships to protect the rig leading to several confrontations with Vietnamese costal patrols.
Onshore, protestors targeted Chinese businesses in several riots not only in Vietnam but also in Japan and South Korea.
China removed the rig from the disputed territory in mid-July.
What remains to be seen is how more bilateral cooperation between China and Vietnam means for relations and other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Vietnam has been among China’s most vocal ASEAN critics regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Leaders in Vietnam have also created more diplomatic ties with the U.S. and other rivals to China.
Analyst Carl Thayer believes that Vietnam is unlieky to place its bets solely on one interest in the region in an Aug. 4 commentary in The Diplomat.
“Vietnam’s cautious leaders are as unlikely to buckle under pressure from China as they are to lurch into an alignment with the United States. Vietnam and China have much diplomatic work to do to repair their damaged bilateral relations and restore strategic trust,” Thayer wrote.
“Vietnam is also likely to deepen its comprehensive partnership with the United States.”