China and Vietnam have “both the wisdom and capability to achieve a success in tackling maritime issues”, State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said on Sunday after talks with his Vietnamese counterpart.
Chang was speaking at a joint news conference with Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh in Mengzi, Yunnan province, after their second meeting. The first took place on Friday in Lao Cai, Vietnam. The two defense ministers also witnessed joint patrols on both sides of the border.
The meetings were the first between defense ministers of the two countries — talks were held last year at the deputy defense minister level.
Relations between Beijing and Hanoi became strained last year after China started an oil drilling operation near its Zhongjian Island. Violent protests broke out in Vietnam.
On Sunday, the defense ministers underscored the necessity of “creating and enabling circumstances in the neighborhood” for the both countries domestic economic development.
Thanh told reporters the meetings were “of historical significance” and described participating with Chang in joint border patrols over the weekend as a “sign of cooperation and friendship”.
In 2011, the two countries agreed to hold joint border patrols and they began at the start of 2012.
Zhu Libin, a Chinese head of the joint patrols said they help eliminate incursions made by people living near the border to the plant crops, hunt or set up home.
The patrols also “boost public awareness of the national borders”, said Zhu, who has served in border defense for 15 years.
Earlier in the day, the two defense chiefs attended a drilling presentation by the Chinese border defense force.
On Sunday, both sides decided take steps to further develop the relationship between their two militaries, especially fortifying cooperation on border defense, Chang said.
One of the next steps, he said, will be to implement the consensus reached by Xi Jinping, general-secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Xi’s Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong.
The upgrade of the border meeting to ministerial-level was also decided after Nguyen’s April visit to Beijing, Chang said.
Thanh said Vietnam “gives great priority” to the relationship between the two militaries and it is ready to work with China on furthering their friendship.