National

Scott Morrison leaves Vietnam for France

By AAP Newswire

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has wrapped up a visit to Vietnam to make his way to France where he will attend the G7.

In Hanoi on Friday, Mr Morrison expressed serious concern over developments in the South China Sea as China and Vietnam remain locked in a tense stand-off.

Relations between Hanoi and Beijing have soured in recent weeks with a Chinese oil exploration ship and its coast guard escorts sailing in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.

Now Mr Morrison will travel to a meeting of world leaders in France where he is expected to pursue a post-Brexit free trade agreement with Britain.

He is also due to meet Donald Trump amid the escalating US trade war with China and mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Mr Morrison was the first Australian prime minister to make a stand-alone visit to Vietnam since Paul Keating in 1993.

He met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Friday, with the leaders agreeing on a joint statement.

They called out disruptive activities in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects in the sea.

Australia and Vietnam stated that international law should be followed despite China continuing to ignore a 2016 ruling against their actions in the South China Sea.

Mr Morrison said countries in the Indo-Pacific should be free to pursue their own interests.

"It is about ensuring that each and every nation in the region can have confidence in its own independence and sovereignty," he told reporters.

But both leaders stopped short of explicitly naming China, continuing to call out the behaviour rather than the perpetrator.

"I am not here to make accusations or do anything of that nature. We do not take sides," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Phuc presented a united front on their position on the South China Sea.

"We are deeply concerned about recent complex developments in the South China Sea and agreed to co-operate in maintaining peace and stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation," he said through an interpreter.