China, Vietnam hold joint sea patrols

China and Vietnam conducted two days of joint naval patrols earlier this week in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Beijing: China and Vietnam conducted two days of joint naval patrols earlier this week in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Defence Ministry in Beijing has said, amid tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Naval ships from the two countries staged the patrols on Sunday and Monday in the gulf as part of an annual plan of "friendly exchanges" between the two militaries, the ministry said in a statement carried on Thursday by state media.

A Vietnamese Navy delegation is now paying a four-day visit to the coastal city of Zhanjiang in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong that will end on Friday, the statement said.

Tensions between China and other claimants to the strategically important waters in the nearby South China Sea -- home to two potentially oil-rich archipelagos, the Paracels and Spratlys -- have escalated in recent weeks.

Vietnam and the Philippines in particular have expressed alarm at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed area, but Beijing has repeatedly said it was committed to resolving the issue peacefully.

US Senator John McCain on Monday called for Washington to expand military and political support to Southeast Asian nations to stand up to China over the increasingly volatile issue.

But China`s Vice Foreign Minister, Cui Tiankai, said neighbouring countries including Vietnam were responsible for recent incidents in the disputed waters and dismissed calls for Washington to play a bigger role in resolving tensions.

"I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the US won`t be burned by this fire," Cui was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying on Wednesday.

Bureau Report

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