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Beijing criticizes US for its 'irresponsible' Vietnam spat critique

BEIJING -- Beijing on Friday defended itself against U.S. criticism over an escalating maritime dispute with Vietnam, criticizing Washington for making “irresponsible” statements on the issue.

“The U.S. has ignored facts and made a series of wrong remarks,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing.

“We urge the U.S. to bear in mind the big picture, act and speak cautiously on the relevant issue, stop making irresponsible remarks and do more things which are conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the region,” she added.

The retort from Beijing echoed similar remarks made by Chinese officials on Thursday at a hastily-arranged press conference to defend China's actions in its latest flare-up with Vietnam over contested waters.

Tensions between the Communist neighbours have risen sharply since Beijing unilaterally announced last week it would relocate a deep-water drilling rig to a disputed patch of the South China Sea — a move the United States has described as “provocative.”

China and Vietnam, which fought a brief border war in 1979, have been locked in a longstanding territorial dispute over the waters, and frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and sovereignty in the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

The spat is the latest in a series of disputes between China and its Asian neighbours over territory in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

Hanoi said Wednesday that Chinese vessels had rammed its patrol ships and turned water cannon on them near the controversial rig. Beijing has countered that it is Hanoi that has “disrupted China's normal drilling activities.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel weighed in on the incident on Wednesday, telling reporters in Hanoi that Washington firmly believed sovereignty disputes had to be settled “diplomatically and ... in accordance with international law.”

“The U.S. is greatly concerned about any dangerous conduct at sea and we oppose any act of intimidation by vessels including and particularly in disputed areas,” he said.

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