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Vietnam, China to Set Up Defense Hotline

Chinese coastguard ships give chase to Vietnamese coastguard vessels (not pictured) after they came within 10 nautical miles of the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.

Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh says he and his Chinese counterpart have agreed to establish a direct hotline, the second one in two years, to "control possible incidents at sea that might lead to conflicts."

The top military official made the announcement to local, state-run media outlets Monday, two days after he had concluded an unexpected visit to Beijing.

But the Chinese side has not made any comments about the latest development, which observers say could help ease the tension between two sides.

The move comes five months after the standoff over Chinese giant oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea, sparking worst diplomatic crisis in years.

Duong Danh Dy, a former Vietnamese Consul General in Guangzhou, China, tells VOA’s Vietnamese Service the agreement is just a small step.

“It is a way for them to de-escalate tension," he said. "They could not come to a compromise on the South China Sea issue in the long run as long as China keeps doing reclamation works and Vietnam claims both Spratlys and Paracels. Anyway, it is good to have a direct line in case conflicts occur.”

Meanwhile, Carl Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales and a member of the Australian Defense Force Academy, said it is one of the signs that "Beijing and Hanoi are moving to reset their relations and pick up where they were prior to the oil rig crisis."

Vietnam and China established their first hotline, between coastal fishing authorities, in 2013. Each side agreed to use the hotline to inform each other of any detainment involving fishermen or boats within 48 hours.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Vietnamese Service.