China's Xi says Vietnam ties can survive "disruptions"

HANOI: China and Vietnam are good socialist neighbours with a long-shared history of revolutionary friendship and should be able to dispel and survive any "disruptions" in their relations, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Vietnam's parliament on Friday.

The two communist-led states both have competing claims in the South China Sea, which came to a head last year with Beijing's parking of an oil rig in waters off the Vietnamese coast, leading to anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

Xi's visit is timely, aimed at rebuilding relations amid some uncertainty over what kind of leader will emerge from January's five-yearly congress of a party traditionally close to Beijing, but now receiving unprecedented Western attention.

Speaking at the National Assembly in Hanoi, Xi referred to Vietnam's independence hero Ho Chi Minh and his amity with the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, and their similar political systems.

"China and Vietnam are joined my mountains and water and the friendship between our two peoples goes back to ancient times," Xi said.

"In the struggle for national independence and liberation we fought side by side and supported each other forming a tight friendship."

China pays great attention to its relations with Vietnam and wants them to continue on a stable path, Xi added.

"Our two parties, countries and peoples should be staunch in their faith, help each other and proceed hand in hand, not allowing anyone to disrupt our pace," he said.

"I believe ... both nations' peoples have the ability and the wisdom to dispel any disruptions."

Xi made no direct mention of the South China Sea, nor indeed the brief border war the two fought in 1979, when China invaded Vietnam to punish Hanoi for toppling the Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

He referred only to the "tests" both had faced in the winds of history, repeating that disputes should be appropriately managed and controlled, a message the two countries agreed to on Thursday.

Relations must "not be allowed to stray from the correct path", Xi added.

China's rapid reclamation work near the contested Spratly Islands has fuelled resentment and put Vietnam's leaders in a tricky spot, as has recent sparring between Beijing and Washington over freedom of navigation.

Vietnam has been diversifying its ties and although China is not among its top investors, it is its largest trading partner at $60 billion a year and biggest source of its imports, making for a dependence that remains a contentious domestic issue.