BEIJING, Aug 25 (Reuters) - China has welcomed Vietnam's decision to compensate the victims of the anti-China protests in May, a move aimed at removing a thorn that has hurt relations between the two countries for months.
Thousands of people attacked businesses and factories in Vietnam in May, targeting Chinese workers and Chinese-owned businesses after Beijing parked an oil rig in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Hanoi.
Fighting between Vietnamese and Chinese workers broke out in central Ha Tinh province, killing at least four people and wounding at least 100. About 4,000 Chinese workers subsequently left Vietnam.
In a statement on China's Foreign Ministry's website on Monday, spokesman Hong Lei said Vietnam has "expressed regret" for the riots in May that targeted Chinese workers and companies, and that it "was pained by the casualties and fatalities that were suffered by Chinese workers".
Hong cited Vietnam as saying that Chinese workers who were victims would receive "some form of humanitarian compensation", adding that Hanoi would send missions to China to express condolences to the representatives of the victims' families.
"China affirms the work and attitude by the Vietnamese side and hopes that Vietnam can earnestly implement the relevant measures," Hong said.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
Anger is still simmering in Vietnam and experts say the conflict is likely to have sharpened the debate within the country's leadership about its long term foreign relations strategy and the need to build stronger trade and diplomatic ties as alternatives to China. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Martin Petty in BANGKOK; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)