Vietnam caused an embarrassing diplomatic flap during the recent state visit to the country by China's Vice President Xi Jinping by displaying a Chinese flag with an extra star.

The official flag of China comprises five stars, one large one and four small ones. However when Xi, who is widely expected to become the top man in Beijing soon, arrived in Hanoi the delegation that greeted him carried flags with a total six stars.

However, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry told reporters: The Vietnam side has made an explanation to the Chinese embassy in Vietnam and said it was a technical error.

State media in both countries did not mention the fraudulent flag, however exiled Vietnamese made comments about it on various blogs, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

On the dissident website called Dan Lam Bao (Citizen journalism), one Vietnamese person scoffed: We must end the activities of those selling the Vietnamese fatherland, looking to make Vietnam the fifth star of China.” Another complained: The Vietnamese Communist Party wants to become a second-class Chinese citizen. This is a damned flag for the Vietnamese people.”

Xi’s journey was designed to help mend relations between China and Vietnam which have become frayed in recent months due to a long-time maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

According to reports, Vietnam made a similar mistake (depicting a six-star Chinese flag) in October during a television broadcast showing a visit to China by the Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Vietnam and China have had normal diplomatic relations since 1991.

The Chinese flag, which was adopted in 1949 with the founding of the People’s Republic, has a red field with five yellow stars – the large star represents the Communist Party while the little stars are supposed to represent the Chinese people.