BEIJING, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) — Bilateral relations between Vietnam and China have remained warm despite disputes between the two countries in the South China Sea, according to Vietnamese Ambassador to China Nguyen Van Tho.
“It’s a fact that overall Vietnam-China relations have been doing well in recent years,” Tho said during an interview given just before top Chinese diplomat Dai Bingguo’s tour of the Southeast Asian country.
State Councilor Dai will visit Vietnam from Monday to Friday as a guest of Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan. The two leaders are scheduled to co-chair the fifth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation.
The committee, launched in 2006 in Hanoi, acts as a platform for dialogues between high-level officials from both countries. The committee meets once a year to discuss strategic and critical issues that affect bilateral relations. Participants have included officials from ruling parties, military officials, and central and local government officials from both countries.
Dai’s visit and attendance at the meeting is an important event for bilateral ties, Tho said, adding that both sides will review the progress made in bilateral relations since the last committee meeting, as well as
discuss and orient the future of bilateral ties.
“Over the past five years, the committee has played a very important role in coordinating cooperation between the two countries in politics, trade and economics, security and national defense. The committee has made great contributions to advancing bilateral ties in a comprehensive and in-depth way,” said the ambassador.
The two countries have stepped up exchanges and cooperation in recent years in order to boost their all-round strategic cooperative partnership, he said.
China is currently Vietnam’s largest trading partner. In 2010, bilateral trade volume reached 30 billion U.S. dollars, five billion dollars higher than the target previously agreed to by both countries. In the first half of this year, trade volume surpassed 18 billion dollars, 40.9 percent higher than that of the same period last year.
There are currently 13,000 Vietnamese students studying in China. Tho referred to these students as an “important bridge for boosting mutual understanding and friendship between Vietnam and China.”
Vietnam and China are close neighbors, friends, comrades and partners, and the two nations’ ongoing efforts to reform and open up require a peaceful and stable environment, Tho said.
The Vietnamese side cherishes its friendship with China and regards bilateral ties as a top priority on its foreign affairs agenda, he added.
Although the historically thorny South China Sea issue is complicated, it does not represent the full breadth of Vietnam-China ties, Tho said, adding that both sides have the ability to resolve the issue appropriately if they keep overall relations in mind and make good use of past experience.
“Both countries have already completed the demarcation of their land borders and the Beibu Gulf,” Tho said, adding that the experience can be used to help resolve disputes in the South China Sea.
In 2004, China and Vietnam agreed on a demarcation plan for the Beibu Gulf, which is located in the northern part of the South China Sea. Four years later, the two countries completed the demarcation of their 1,300-kilometer-long land border.
Tho said that both sides can expand their cooperation in “low-sensitivity fields” such as joint scientific research by reaching a consensus on the principles used to solve maritime disputes.