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China woos Vietnam as Hanoi invites Japanese warship to naval base

China’s island-building activities in the South China Sea have drawn the ire of Vietnam, and Hanoi urged China to not militarize the disputed islands.

By Elizabeth Shim
Chinese President Xi Jinping took an active approach to relations with neighboring Vietnam, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in loans during a two-day state visit on Thursday and Friday. File Pool Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/600f65e3f854e12e52a793fd82348559/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Chinese President Xi Jinping took an active approach to relations with neighboring Vietnam, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in loans during a two-day state visit on Thursday and Friday. File Pool Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

HANOI, Vietnam, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- A bitter dispute over territorial claims notwithstanding, China is taking an active approach to relations with Vietnam, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.

Hanoi, however, tapped into other partnerships during Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit, permitting the stationing of a Japanese warship at its naval base.

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During his visit to Vietnam on Thursday and Friday, Xi had "urged the two sides to properly deal with and control their differences, gradually accumulate consensus and expand common interests through bilateral negotiations," according to China's state news agency Xinhua.

Beijing is also offering a $250 million loan for an urban railway project in Vietnam, and according to China press, a total of $690 million in capital for infrastructure projects.

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Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said the two countries should "realize negotiation mechanisms" to settle maritime disputes and "seek basic and long-term solutions that both sides mutually accept," Bloomberg reported.

But China's island-building activities in the South China Sea have drawn the ire of Vietnam. China accounts for one-fifth of Vietnam's trade, but less than 20 percent of Vietnamese hold positive views of Beijing.

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In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, protesters gathered during Xi's state visit, but in a move that indicated that the stakes were high for the government, eyewitnesses and activists told Radio Free Asia that baton-wielding police beat the activists, arresting them and transporting them to an unknown location.

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"Never before have [the police] been so brutal to protesters like they were today," said one female activist in Ho Chi Minh City. "They threw people into vehicles just like pigs and drove them somewhere we don't know. They rounded me up, too, but I escaped."

Vietnam's serious concern about China's strategy surfaced in Trong's statement during the Xi visit, when the Vietnamese leader urged Xi not to militarize the South China Sea. Then, in an agreement signed on Friday, Vietnam invited Japan to station a Japanese warship at Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay.

The countries are to hold their first joint naval exercise, Kyodo News reported, a move that could further draw the ire of Beijing.

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