Beijing: China and Vietnam have signed an agreement on a series of steps to resolve maritime disputes over parts of South China Sea, a source of frequent friction between the two communist nations.

The six-point agreement, which provides for setting up of a hotline between two countries to deal with emergencies and twice yearly meetings, was signed yesterday by Zhang Zhijun, a vice foreign minister of China, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Ho Xuan Son, state-run Xinhua news agency
reported.

The broad agreement was arrived at during a visit by Vietnam's Communist party chief Nguyen Pan Son and his Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao.

Tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea escalated sharply this year because of non-military skirmishes involving vessels in the area and led to almost weekly anti-Chinese protests in Hanoi.

China and Vietnam along with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan stake conflicting claims of sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea, a potentially oil and gas rich body of water.

The agreement calls for the two sides to seek basic and long-term solutions for sea-related issues, in the spirit of mutual respect, equal and mutually beneficial treatment.

"China and Vietnam should seek a basic and long-term approach that will be acceptable for both sides in solving maritime disputes on the basis of legislation and principles enshrined in international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea signed in 1982," the agreement said.

It said, "Both sides should fully respect legal principles, take history and other relevant issues into consideration and accommodate each other's concerns in a constructive manner."

While seeking a basic and long-term approach to resolve maritime issues, both sides should explore interim and temporary solutions, including research and negotiations on the joint development of the sea, without impacting each side's stance and position, the agreement said.

(Agencies)