WASHINGTON, May 16, 2014 (AFP) – The United States Friday betrayed increasing disquiet over the potential for serious clashes between China and Vietnam over disputed South China Sea territory, calling on both sides to show restraint.
Washington had previously angered Beijing with its criticism of what it said was the “provocative” step of deploying an oil rig in contested waters.
Tensions are rising in the area, which have seen ramming incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese boats and anti-China riots in Vietnam, and Washington is putting particular onus on China to ease the situation.
“We’re very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by government- controlled assets operating in this area,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner to preserve freedom of navigation and overflight, to exercise restraint, to take steps to lower tensions and to address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law.”
Carney also renewed US condemnations of China’s decision to deploy the oil rig.
“It raises tensions in the region and, by raising tensions, makes it more difficult to resolve claims over disputed territory in a manner that supports peace and stability in the region,” Carney said.
Washington says it does not take a view on the merit of territorial claims between China and several of its allies in the South China Sea.
But it calls on all parties to solve the disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.
Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday underscored serious US concern about China’s unilateral actions in waters disputed with Vietnam at a meeting with a top Chinese general Fang Fenghui.
There is a history of rivalry between China and Vietnam, particularly over the contested Paracel and Spratly islands.
The two nations fought bloody naval battles over the islands in 1974 and 1988, and a border war that left tens of thousands dead on both sides in 1979.
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