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China seeks to cool tensions with Vietnam

(May 30th, 2016) China has played down the U.S. decision to lift a decades-old ban on sales of arms to Vietnam because it is trying to avoid worsening relations already strained by Chinese military expansionism in the South China Sea.

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On May 24, a day after U.S. President Obama expressed his desire for closer U.S. economic and military ties with Vietnam, the vice foreign ministers of China and Vietnam met in a Chinese border province to discuss their relationship.

“China and Vietnam are friendly neighbors connected by mountains and rivers,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a news conference. China, Ms. Hua said, is willing to work with Vietnam to implement a range of legal agreements “to elevate boundary management and cooperation.”

That suggests that Beijing wants to reassure the Vietnamese that the two communist nations should put their shared interests above their dispute over who owns what in the South China Sea, especially as the Obama administration offers more support to Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries worried about China’s expansionism.

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