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May 29, 2017

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US urges for calm in China, Vietnam as tensions flare

WASHINGTON/HANOI -- 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 U.S. 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 U.S. concern about China's unilateral actions in waters disputed with Vietnam at a meeting with a top Chinese general Fang Fenghui.

Vietnam Groups Call for More Anti-China Protests

Vietnamese civil society groups have called for renewed demonstrations against China in several cities Sunday after Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters triggered the worst anti-China unrest in decades.

But Vietnamese authorities — who have occasionally allowed demonstrations to vent anger at the country's giant neighbor — warned they would "resolutely" prevent any further outbursts.

An alliance of 20 vocal Vietnamese NGOs called for fresh protests in the capital Hanoi, the southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City, and other areas against China's "aggressive actions" in the South China Sea.

However, it urged participants to remain peaceful following the chaos Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Those violent actions created a bad image for patriotic demonstrations and the people of Vietnam; therefore, they must be stopped," said a statement issued on social media late Friday.

The alliance comprises largely anti-government organizations and is believed to have played a role in stirring the recent protests.

In a text message sent by the government to Vietnamese mobile phone users Saturday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said authorities across the country had been ordered to "implement measures to resolutely prevent illegal demonstrations that could cause social and security disorder."

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