Ties between the Communist countries sank to a three-decade low this year after China deployed a $1 billion-oil rig to the disputed waters which straddle key shipping lanes.
Vietnam claims the portion of the sea as its exclusive economic zone, and the rig's deployment sparked a wave of violent protests in Vietnam.

The two countries should "properly address and control maritime differences" to create favourable conditions for bilateral cooperation, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan.

Dung agreed and endorsed boosting "cooperation in infrastructure, finance and maritime exploration".The comments were a reiteration of earlier pledges by leaders from the  two countries.China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phung Quang Thanh, on Friday in Beijing, during which both sides agreed to "gradually resume" military ties.

The two leaders vowed that the countries' militaries would "play a positive role in properly dealing with their maritime disputes and safeguarding a peaceful and stable situation.”China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in deposits of oil and gas resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims  in the waters where USD 5 trillion of ship-borne goods pass every year.

Alarmed by China's military rise and growing assertiveness, Vietnam has broadened its military relationships in recent years, most notably with Cold War-era patron Russia but also with the United States. Beijing has told Washington to stay out of disputes over the South China Sea and let countries in the region resolve the issue themselves.   

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