State Councilor Yang Jiechi also told his hosts that the rig's
activities in waters also claimed by Vietnam were "completely
legal", China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a
daily briefing in Beijing.
Yang, who outranks the country's foreign minister, made the remarks
in a meeting with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister Pham Binh Minh.
Before the visit, experts had said many obstacles remained to
resolving one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations
since the neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.
Among them is Beijing's demand for compensation in the wake of
anti-Chinese riots that erupted in Vietnam after the drilling
platform was deployed on May 2.
"The most urgent thing is for Vietnam to stop its interference and
harassment, stop hyping up the issue and stop whipping up
disagreement to create new disputes, and properly deal with the
aftermath of the recent serious incidents of violence," Hua said,
describing Yang's comments.
Yang later met Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and was due to have
talks with the head of Vietnam's ruling communist party before
attending a dinner hosted by Minh.
No news conferences are planned. Vietnam has yet to make any
statement about the talks.
Yang's visit is the highest-level direct contact between the two
sides since the rig was parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of
Vietnam says the platform is in its 200-nautical mile exclusive
economic zone and on its continental shelf. China has said the rig
is operating completely within its waters near the Paracel Islands,
which are occupied by China.
"State Councilor Yang Jiechi said China and Vietnam's relations are
facing difficulties at the moment because for more than a month,
Vietnam has been continually illegally harassing Chinese drilling
operations in the waters near the Paracel Islands," Hua said.
"Yang stressed that the Paracel Islands are China's inherent
territory and that there exists no dispute about this."
Nevertheless, both sides believed the talks were "frank and
constructive", Hua added.
Earlier, Yang and Minh shook hands in front of reporters without
smiling at a government guesthouse. Outside the building, neither
country's national flag was flying, as is customary when senior
foreign visitors attend meetings in Hanoi.
Sino-Vietnamese ties have been largely frozen since early May, with
both sides accusing the other of inflaming the situation. Dozens of
Vietnamese and Chinese coastguard and fishing vessels have
repeatedly squared off around the rig, resulting in a number of
rammings and collisions.
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Vietnam's official Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said Chinese ships did
little to try to impede Vietnamese boats in the area on Tuesday. It
quoted a senior Vietnamese naval official as saying the Chinese
ships had been less aggressive, suggesting an effort to dial down
tensions on the water ahead of Yang's visit.
While communist parties rule both countries and trade has taken off
in recent years, Vietnam has long been suspicious of its giant
neighbor, especially over China's claims to almost the entire South
China Sea. Ordinary Vietnamese are also quickly angered by any
perceived bullying from China.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to
parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
The deployment of the Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig triggered anti-Chinese
riots in Vietnam in which four people were killed during a rampage
of destruction and looting of factories believed to be owned by
Chinese companies. Many of the factories were Taiwanese-owned.
Vietnam detained several hundred people in the aftermath of the
violence. Around a dozen people have been tried and given jail terms
of up to three years.
Prime Minister Dung last month said his government was considering
taking legal action against China. That drew an angry response from
Beijing. China has said the rig will explore until mid-August. It
has a good chance of finding enough gas to put the area into
production, Chinese industry experts have said.
(Additional reporting by Nguyen Ha Minh; Writing by Megha
Rajagopalan; Editing by Dean Yates)
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