NEW DELHI (AFP) – Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has sought India’s support to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, local media reported Monday, in a bid to shore up regional alliances as relations have soured with Asian giant China.
Tan, who is on a two-day visit to India, is due to meet Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday and is expected to discuss strengthening regional alliances at a time when both countries have seen relations with China strained over territorial disputes.
Beijing and several Southeast Asian nations lay claims over the South China Sea, with Vietnam staunchly opposing China’s efforts to develop airstrips and military bases on the island chains it controls in the sea.
“Vietnam hopes that India, as a major power in the region and the world, will actively support the parties concerned to peacefully resolve all disputes,” Tan told the Press Trust of India (PTI) in an interview published Monday.
“Thus contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.”
In May, relations between China and Vietnam sank to their lowest point in decades after Beijing moved a deep-sea oil rig into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, triggering deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam.
Tan told PTI that he “will continue to allow ships from other countries including India” to visit his country, an assurance that comes a month after China told an Indian naval vessel to leave waters off Vietnam claiming it as “Chinese waters”.
China says it has sovereignty over essentially all of the South China Sea which is a crucial maritime route and is also believed to hold huge oil and gas deposits. Asean states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea, while Taiwan is a sixth claimant.
Similarly, India and China have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their shared border, with both sides accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other’s territory.
Tensions rose at the remote frontier last month when hundreds of Chinese troops allegedly moved into territory claimed by India, resulting in a tense stand-off during a visit to India by China’s President Xi Jinping.