Vietnamese, Philippine leaders discuss China rifts

Associated Press
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, greets Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Vietnam's prime minister arrived in Manila on Wednesday to talk with his Philippine counterpart on improving cooperation toward peacefully resolving disputes in the increasingly volatile South China Sea, Vietnamese and Philippine officials said.

Vietnamese Ambassador Truong Trieu Duong said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung would discuss the ongoing standoff between vessels belonging to Vietnam and China near the disputed Paracel Islands, where Beijing deployed an oil rig on May 1.

China deployed a frigate, coast guard vessels and a flotilla of fishing boats last year to another disputed South China Sea area, the Second Thomas Shoal, where Philippine marines have kept watch on board a grounded navy ship. The Chinese ships have repeatedly tried to block Philippine vessels bringing fresh troops and food supply, sparking protests from Manila.

"We will find try to find all the ways and means for the two countries to cooperate closely with each other in order to solve ... the very, very serious problems that we are now facing in the (South) China Sea," the Vietnamese ambassador said.

President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the two leaders' meeting should not be seen as a budding alliance against China, adding the two sides will also discuss economic cooperation, trade and tourism.

Dung would also attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Manila.

Many have feared the long-seething territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea could spark Asia's next major armed conflict. Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping territorial claims in the strategic area, aside from China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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