Vietnam's Communist Party chief and several Cabinet ministers have left for a four-day visit to China as the countries seek to mend relations strained by the giant northern neighbor's deployment last year of an oil rig in disputed waters.

Community Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong left Tuesday for Beijing, accompanied by the country's foreign minister, defense minister and other senior officials, the party said in a statement on its website.

Relations between the communist neighbors plunged to its lowest point in years following China's move to park a giant oil exploration rig last May near the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam.

China removed the rig after two months of drilling that triggered a near-breakdown in ties and led to deadly protests in Vietnam.