Senior Chinese leader to visit Vietnam amid sea tension

China's Yu Zhengsheng (C), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) , is escorted by staff members as he arrives at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat. Picture taken on November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese leader will visit Vietnam this month, China's state media said on Monday, amid tension between the neighbors over competing claims in the South China Sea.

Yu Zhengsheng, who heads a largely ceremonial advisory body to China's parliament but is ranked fourth in the Communist Party leadership, will be going at the invitation of Vietnam's Communist Party, the official Xinhua news agency said.

It provided no other details.

Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam in May after a $1 billion deepwater rig owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company was parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Since then, though, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam, including sending senior officials to Hanoi.

However, the two countries clashed again this month after Vietnam submitted its position to an international arbitration tribunal, initiated by the Philippines, over the festering dispute that involves several countries.

Communist parties rule both countries and their trade has swelled to $50 billion annually, but Vietnam has long been suspicious of its giant neighbor, especially over China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters that are crossed by key global shipping lanes.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)