BEIJING, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- China and Vietnam agreed on basic principles to settle their maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Chinese media reported.
The two Communist countries sides signed a six-point agreement for friendly consultations to handle maritime issues properly and make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The agreement was reached during the China visit of Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, who met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is also the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
The agreement said China and Vietnam should seek a mutually acceptable basic and long-term approach to solving maritime disputes on the basis of legislation and principles enshrined in international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China says it has sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, but Vietnam asserts competing claims over parts of the sea including the Spratly Islands. Other countries with differing claims in the area include the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The China-Vietnam dispute has heightened since the summer, after Vietnam accused Chinese patrol boats of snapping the cables of its ship involved in seismic research off its coast. The region is seen as rich in minerals and oil.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in June deploring China's use of force against the Vietnamese ship and calling for a peaceful resolution of the sea dispute through multilateral efforts.
Under the China-Vietnam agreement, both sides will set up a hotline contact mechanism to allow them to promptly communicate and properly deal with maritime issues.
"No action should be taken to complicate or exacerbate the maritime dispute before a final solution is reached," Hu said, the China Daily reported.
Trong was quoted as saying if the maritime issue is not properly managed it would affect the broad picture of bilateral relations.
The report said China has been Vietnam's leading trade partner since 2004, with bilateral trade volume exceeding $27 billion in 2010 and reaching $15.7 billion in the first half of this year.