17 June 2014
Last updated at 22:44
Mr Yang (centre) arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday as he prepares to begin talks with Vietnamese officials
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi is in Vietnam and set to begin talks with officials, in a bid to ease tensions.
The two countries have disputing claims in the South China Sea.
China’s foreign affairs ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China hopes to have a “frank and deep exchange of opinions” on maritime issues.
“We hope that Vietnam can focus on the big picture, work together with China, and handle matters appropriately,” she said.
In May, China moved its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 to waters claimed by Vietnam near the disputed Paracel Islands, sparking bitter protest.
Anti-China demonstrations were held in several parts of Vietnam, culminating in riots that saw factories burnt and four killed.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the rig would be discussed during talks with Mr Yang, according to news agencies.
Mr Yang’s visit is the highest-level direct contact since the oil rig was moved on 2 May. He is China’s state councillor, a post which outranks the foreign minister.
Since then, Chinese and Vietnamese boats have been squaring off in waters near the rig, with a Vietnam boat sinking after it collided with a Chinese ship in late May.
China has said the rig will remain in its present location until August.
China’s coast guard has been patrolling the waters around the oil rig Haiyang Shiyou
The moving of the oil rig to disputed waters sparked anti-China protests across Vietnam in May
The protests culminated in riots that left several factories burnt and four dead
Both countries have also taken the dispute to the United Nations, and have submitted dossiers on their claims to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
China’s decision to send a top envoy to Vietnam to discuss the issue appears to show a willingness to engage, compared to earlier strongly-worded rhetoric.
Beijing had accused Vietnam of “provocations” in the South China Sea, claiming its ships have been rammed more than 1,400 times by Vietnamese vessels. Its foreign affairs ministry has also in recent weeks called Vietnam’s claims to the Paracel Islands “absurd and laughable”.
But China is also going ahead with its own plans to boost its presence in the disputed area. Over the weekend Beijing announced it will build a school in the Paracel Islands.