An unrepentant China has defended its actions in disputed Asian waters amid warnings of war with Vietnam, as Washington voices “serious concern” after riots left two Chinese workers dead and more than 100 injured.
Vietnam has been shaken by its worst anti-China unrest in decades following Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig in the resource-rich South China Sea, which triggered ramming incidents involving Vietnamese and Chinese vessels.
China has accused Hanoi of “connivance” with protesters who targeted hundreds of foreign-owned factories, as long-simmering enmity between the communist rivals boiled over.
“This is a Chinese company carrying out normal operations in Chinese coastal waters,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday, adding Beijing expressed “serious concern” about the violence in Vietnam.
Hua put the death toll at two, but said authorities were still gathering information on the unrest. Beijing sent a delegation led by an assistant foreign minister to Vietnam on Thursday, she added.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper turned up the rhetoric with a strident editorial supporting the use of “non-peaceful” measures against Vietnam and the Philippines.
“The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn’t mean China can’t resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines,” it said.
“Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China’s sincerely peaceful intentions,” the paper added.
Calm appeared to have returned to flashpoint industrial zones across Vietnam on Friday after riot police were deployed to restore order.
Vietnam’s Communist regime, wary of public gatherings that could threaten its authoritarian rule, has in the past alternated between tolerating anti-China rallies to send a message to Beijing, and violently breaking them up.
US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday “underscored the United States’ serious concern about China’s unilateral actions in waters disputed with Vietnam” at a meeting with a top Chinese general at the White House, his office said in a statement.
“The vice president reaffirmed that while the United States does not take a position on the competing territorial claims, no nation should take provocative steps to advance claims over disputed areas in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.”
Hua reacted frostily to Biden’s comment, saying it amounted to “intentionally taking a biased position”.