24, 2013 (PHILSTAR) FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa - Chinese President Xi Ping scored a goal for bilateral negotiations between his country and Vietnam on the South China Sea conflict.

This was the heart of the agreement between the two leaders during the first visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to China.

The Philippines should take note of this new development on Vietnam’s approach or be left out in the region’s development.

“China and Vietnam should make a decision to direct and push forward on seeking a political solution to the South China Sea issue in line with taking responsibilities for history and people. We should proceed from the Chinese-Vietnamese friendship and the development of both countries, so the issue does not affect bilateral ties,” Xi said.

He added that both should work to avoid internationalizing the issue in an indirect allusion to the US.

* * *

With this new approach China and Vietnam will seek to work together to find an administrative formula for the disputed “sea waters out of the mouth of Beibu Bay.” The goal would be towards joint development and demarcation concurrently, Xi said.

China also hopes both sides will carry out joint research in sea waters out of the mouth of Beibu Bay soon.

In return Sang said Vietnam is willing “to implement the consensus between the two countries and properly handle relevant problems through friendly consultations.”

* * *

There were already broad hints that Vietnam would be looking for a new approach to South China Sea conflict during the recent Shangri-la conference in Singapore.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s statements urging for political solutions reiterated what the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in the Shangri-la conference, but it became mangled by media reports.

Dung said plainly that there must be greater strategic trust in the Asia-Pacific. He argued that the recent tensions and territorial disputes would undermine the region’s prosperity.

“We all understand that if this region falls into instability, and especially armed conflicts in general, there will be neither winner nor loser,’’ Mr Dung said, “Rather, all will lose.’’

But somewhere along the line of reporting these words were interpreted as “China’s assertiveness in the region which is a concern for many countries.”

Unfortunately by the time media (at least from what I read in Philippine newspapers) reported on the conference the words of PM Nguyen were interpreted as “China’s assertiveness in the region which is a concern for many countries.” This, it is said, is what Mr. Dung alluded to indirectly. That depends on who is interpreting.

Shorn of diplomatic language, China’s growing strength was at the center of the conference and how the US pivot to the region should deal with competition with China.

As in any contest for supremacy, the competing parties must get as many allies to its side. But as a diplomat said it is unfortunate that every time efforts are being made for peace “a US warship” is docked close by.

The Vietnamese prime minister immediately doused cold water on any such threats.

“Vietnam ’s defense policy is that of peace and self-defense. Vietnam will not be a military ally to any country and will not allow any country to set up military bases on Vietnamese territory, and will not ally itself with any country to counter another.”

* * *

While Philippine newspapers were reporting on what a nominee to the top US diplomat in East Asia said about “China’s coercion and bullying in the region” Vietnamese media was praising President Truong Tan Sang’s first state visit to China,. It reported that the state visit contributed to “further elevating the bilateral ties.”

Local English daily Vietnam News, under the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported “the visit affirms Vietnam’s consistent policy in relations with the Communist Party of China and the State of China” and “it will contribute to developing bilateral relations in a practical manner within the framework of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and bolstering mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries in various realms, especially economics and trade.”

Vietnam Investment Review, a publication of the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment reported on the signing of ten documents by Sang and Xi Jinping.

The investment review said that among the documents were a joint plan of action between Governments of Vietnam and China on implementing the Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership; an agreement between Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development ( MARD) and China’s Ministry of Agriculture on the establishment of a hot line on unexpected incidences in fishing operations at sea; and the 4th amendment to an agreement between Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation (PetroVietnam) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation ( CNO OC) on the joint exploration in agreed offshore areas in the Beibu Gulf.“

In general the Vietnamese media noted the all-round cooperation between Vietnam and China, particularly in economic and trade areas over the past years.

“China has been Vietnam’s leading trade partner since 2004. According to statistics from Vietnam, “the two- way trade hit $41.18 billion in 2012. Vietnam exported nearly $12.4 billion worth of goods to China while importing nearly $28.8 billion. 

Apart from traditional items such as farming, forestry and fishery products, the volume of Vietnamese industrial products exported to China has increased since 2011, reaching 30 percent of total exports at present.In 2012, rice exports to China experienced a sharp rise, earning 898 million U.S. dollars for Vietnam.

Bilateral trade turnover in the first four months of 2013 exceeded $14.3 billion, of which Vietnam shipped nearly $3.9 billion worth of goods to China and imported over $10.4 billion.

The two countries are making all-out efforts to realize their bilateral trade target of $60 billion by 2015.

By the end of March 2013, China had invested in 899 projects in Vietnam with $4.7 billion in total registered capital, ranking 13th out of 94 countries and territories investing in Vietnam.

China has so far given $1.6 billion in preferential loans to Vietnam, focusing on industry, mining, railway, energy, garments and textiles, and chemicals. Apart from preferential loans, the Chinese Government has also provided Vietnam with non- refundable aid, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. “

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved