China and Vietnam have signed an agreement on peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
The document was signed Tuesday in Beijing by China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and his Vietnamese counterpart Ho Xuan Son. Under the six-point agreement, the two neighbors will seek to handle maritime disputes through negotiations and friendly consultations.
The two diplomats signed the deal following talks between visiting Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and China's President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao. Trong is in China for a five-day official visit.
The two sides agreed to open a hotline to deal with potential flare-ups in the South China Sea and to have their border negotiators meet regularly twice a year.
Vietnam has complained in recent months that on at least two occasions Chinese naval vessels have interfered with oil and gas exploration in waters claimed by Hanoi as part of its exclusive economic zone. The government has permitted rare street protests in Hanoi and other cities against China's behavior in the disputed waters.
The Philippines has also complained of Chinese interference, and both Hanoi and Manila have sought and received U.S. support in the dispute. Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China claims that it has sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.