Vietnam says China should avoid using trade as a weapon in maritime disagreements after diplomatic tensions led to a slump in exports from Japan when Chinese consumers boycotted the goods of its Asian neighbour. "Economic force should not be applied in the case of settlement of territorial disputes," which should be addressed through international law, Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh said in Hanoi. He said he had "observed" Japan's conflict with China: Japan reported in November that its exports to China had tumbled 12 per cent. China's emergence as the largest export destination for markets from Japan to South Korea offers it a potential lever as frictions escalate over such claims as the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands in the East China Sea and the Spratlys in the South China Sea, which are estimated to hold energy reserves. Vietnamese officials plan to meet on December 12 with south-east Asian counterparts to discuss ways of addressing conflicts with China. Mr Vinh said his nation was open to exploiting jointly oil and gas in areas that Vietnam claims and that lie outside its exclusive economic zone. He said it "cannot accept" any move by China National Offshore Oil Corp., China's biggest offshore oil and gas producer, to tap resources in areas with rival claims. An exclusive economic zone refers to an area of sovereignty stretching 200 nautical miles from a country's coastal baseline, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Read more: Vietnam warns China to not use trade as weapon ----------------------------------- Is it a warning or begging?