Vietnam leaders tell China of determination to defend sovereignty

Vietnam vowed to fight by "peaceful means" to defend its claim to sovereignty over China-held islands in the South China Sea in Wednesday's talks in Hanoi between its leaders and a top Chinese diplomat, state-run media reported Thursday.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi that China's "illegal" stationing of an oil rig deep inside Vietnamese-claimed territorial waters near the disputed Paracel Islands "seriously violates Vietnam's sovereignty," according to the Voice of Vietnam and other media.

Dung said China's actions "threatened peace, stability, security and safety of navigation and aviation in the region, while causing indignation and hurting the sentiments of Vietnamese people," the English-language daily Vietnam News reported.

Vietnam will "resolutely struggle to defend its sovereignty by peaceful measures in line with international law," he stressed.

In a separate meeting with Yang, Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong made clear that Vietnam's claim to sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos is "unchanged and unchangeable."

But he said Vietnam still values its relations of friendship and cooperation with its huge northern neighbor and seeks to continue them.

Dung demanded China withdraw its drilling platform and ships from the disputed area and engage with Vietnam in negotiations for the peaceful settlement of their maritime disputes in accordance with international law, according to a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry statement.

He stressed the need for the two sides to "control the situation to prevent conflict," while continuing talks to settle the disputes.

While in Hanoi, Yang held talks on the issue with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, during which he pinned the blame for the current difficulties in bilateral relations squarely on the Vietnamese side, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, told reporters Thursday in Beijing that Yang made clear that China "will take all necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," including by preventing disruption of its drilling operations off the coast of the Paracel Islands.

"What is imperative right now is that Vietnam should stop disrupting Chinese operations, inflaming relevant issues, playing up disputes or creating new tensions," Hua said.

"It is important for the Vietnamese side to create essential conditions and atmosphere for both sides to sort out relevant issues through consultations, and restore bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields," she said.

"Through political and diplomatic means, both sides should seek proper solutions to bring stability back as soon as possible, and refrain from aggravating, complicating and internationalizing relevant issues."