The leaders of China and Vietnam had "positive" talks on Thursday regarding the disputed South China Sea with neither side criticising the other, a senior Chinese diplomat said.
Out of all the countries, who are contesting for their rights on the waterway, Vietnam is the country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping had his discussion with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said that the South China Sea had been brought up in their talks. "It was discussed but the main tone was very positive," Liu told Reuters.
He added that both of them have agreed to follow their consensus to continue stabilising the situation and to keep pushing talks, as well as continue joint resource exploration in less sensitive areas, like the Gulf of Tonkin.
"I think that talking about the South China Sea this time is really a positive piece of news. Neither side raised any criticisms of each other. There were no voices of that were out of step," Liu said.
China claims the almost whole of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to parts of the route, through which about US$5 trillion of trade passes each year.
Last year, tensions heightened between Beijing and Hanoi after Taiwan and US officials said Beijing had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracel archipelago which China controls.
Vietnam has referred China's actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels. The tensions between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically in 2014 when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.
Since then, the relations gradually improved with a series of high-level visits between the two, though the military buildup continues in the region, including China's building of airstrips on man-made islands in the South China Sea.
Xi told Quang he hoped to take relations to a new stage to better benefit both peoples. nXi also praised the leadership of Vietnam for its economic reforms.
"As a comrade and neighbour, we are happy to see this," Xi added.
At present, Quang is in Beijing to attend a weekend conference on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond through massive infrastructure investment.