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[BEIJING] China wants relations with Vietnam to proceed along a "correct path", a visiting senior Chinese leader said, vowing to improve mutual trust, amid tension between the neighbours over competing claims in the South China Sea.
Yu Zhengsheng, who heads a largely ceremonial advisory body to China's parliament but is ranked fourth in the Chinese Communist Party leadership, made the remarks during a meeting in Hanoi with Le Hong Anh, a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party's politburo, Chinese state media said late on Thursday. "My current visit to Vietnam, commissioned by (President) Xi Jinping, aims to enhance mutual trust, build consensus and boost progress of China-Vietnam relations in a correct path," Yu said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
China is willing to enhance communication with Vietnam, and deal with bilateral ties from a strategic view and long-term perspective, Yu added.
Communist parties rule both countries and their trade has swelled to US$50 billion annually, but Vietnam has long been suspicious of its giant neighbour, especially over China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam in May after a US$1 billion deepwater rig owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company was parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.
Since then, though, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam, including sending senior officials to Hanoi.
However, the two countries clashed again this month after Vietnam submitted its position on the festering maritime dispute, which involves several countries, to an international arbitration tribunal, initiated by the Philippines.
Anh, who visited Beijing in August, was quoted by Xinhua as calling on "both sides to implement the consensus reached between their senior leaders regarding maritime issues, and properly settle their differences".
The two countries also have "the responsibility to inherit and carry forward their traditional friendship fostered by the older generations of their leaders", Anh said.
China claims about 90 per cent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters that are crossed by key global shipping lanes.