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China, Vietnam set up dispute hotline amid summit: report
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 20, 2013

Kerry off on mega Mideast, Asia tour
Washington (AFP) June 19, 2013 - US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Friday on a 12-day trip during which he will return to the Middle East, hold high-level talks in Southeast Asia and make his first visit to India.

At the start of his seven-nation tour, Kerry will head to Doha to meet with Qatari leaders and take part in a meeting of the core ministers from the Friends of Syria group, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

The top US diplomat will then travel to India from June 23-25 for his first official visit since taking up his post on February 1, to chair the fourth annual US-India strategic dialogue.

The forum reflects "the strong strategic partnership between our countries," Psaki said, and will take up issues ranging from security and defense to science, climate change and economic ties, as well as space cooperation.

Originally Kerry had planned to visit Pakistan, Psaki confirmed, but it was decided to arrange the trip when he would have more time.

"He had planned to go, but the way his schedule ended up, he wouldn't have been able to spend as much time as he wanted to," she told reporters.

She said the delay was not meant as a snub.

"Absolutely not. The secretary is ready to go. He wants to go. We're working on scheduling."

From Delhi, Kerry will travel to Saudi Arabia to meet top Saudi officials, before heading to Kuwait City on June 26.

From June 27 to 29, the US secretary of state will visit Jordan before making his fifth visit to Israel to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Kerry is trying to coax the two sides to resume negotiations frozen for almost three years, and has been pursuing what he calls a "quiet strategy" to kickstart the peace process.

He had been forced to postpone the trip to Israel planned for earlier this month as the US administration weighed the crisis in Syria.

But in his first few months in office, he will now have visited Israel more times than his predecessor Hillary Clinton during her whole four-year tenure.

Psaki confirmed that Kerry was, however, not planning to visit the West Bank and would instead meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman.

From Jerusalem, Kerry will head to Brunei from June 30 to July 2 for meetings with Asian leaders including annual ASEAN-US talks as well as the ASEAN regional forum and a foreign ministers meeting of the East Asia Summit.

He is due to return to Washington on July 2.

China and Vietnam have agreed to set up a hotline to resolve disputes in the South China Sea, where clashes between fishermen have stoked tensions between the countries, state media reported Thursday.

The agreement was signed by agricultural authorities from Beijing and Hanoi on Wednesday, the state-run China Daily reported, amid a visit to China by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

"With the establishment of the fishery hotline, each side should be informed of any detainment or treatment by the other side involving fishermen or fishing boats within 48 hours," the paper quoted Wang Ying, a senor official at China's ministry of agriculture, as saying.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, which is a key shipping route thought to contain rich energy deposits, based on a map published in the 1940s, but Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries also claim some areas.

The dispute between China and Vietnam flares up periodically, most recently last month when Vietnam accused China of firing on a fishing boat in its waters.

The agreement came as Vietnam's leader met President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The two nations signed agreements in areas including defence, economy and public diplomacy, state-media said.

Xi reiterated China's position that territorial issues be resolved through bilateral talks, state-media reported.

China has blocked attempts by neighbouring countries to use the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum to discuss the ownership of the South China Sea.

"China and Vietnam should make a decision to direct and push forward on seeking a political solution to the South China Sea issue in line with taking responsibilities for history and people," Xi said, as quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

"We should proceed from the Chinese-Vietnamese friendship and the development of both countries, so the issue does not affect bilateral ties," said Xi during talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in Beijing.

Sang told Xi that Vietnam is willing to approach the issue through friendly consultations, according to Xinhua.

Competing claims in the South China Sea have for decades made it one of Asia's potential flashpoints for military conflict. China and Vietnam fought battles in 1974 and 1988 for control of islands that left dozens of soldiers dead.

They also fought a brief, yet bloody, border war in 1979.

Tensions over sea claims have risen again in recent years with both Vietnam and the Philippines accusing China of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claim.


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