After a meeting in Hanoi, the foreign ministers of China and Vietnam agreed to settle their differences in the South China Sea peacefully. But the announcement may not be what it seems. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters, “We have agreed that settling the maritime issues is extremely important,” and went on to describe the Vietnamese as “good neighbors, good comrades, good friends and good partners.”
China is by far Vietnam’s largest trading partner, but the two countries have a long history of hostility.
They fought battles in the South China Sea in 1974 and again in 1988. In 2014, anti-Chinese riots erupted after China sent an oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam. And just last week, Vietnam had to halt a major oil drilling project after pressure from China.
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told the news conference, “We are ready to work with China to resolve arising issues.” He added that both sides should “respect the legitimate rights and interests of the other in accordance with International law.”
That’s a not so subtle reference to the decision of an international court in 2016 that rejected China’s claims in the South China Sea. Beijing ignores that ruling and continues to develop military bases on man-made islands.
Its neighbors cannot ignore China’s military and economic power, but Vietnam has tried to balance that, with deeper ties to the United States. Just three weeks ago, USS Carl Vinson visited Cam Ranh Bay – the first US Aircraft carrier to dock in Vietnam since 1975.
And last week, the U.S. Coast Guard delivered six patrol boats to its Vietnamese counterpart.