BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's foreign ministry blamed the United States on Friday for stoking tensions in the disputed South China Sea by encouraging countries to engage in dangerous behaviour, following an uptick in tensions between China and both the Philippines and Vietnam.
China this week accused Vietnam of intentionally colliding with its ships in the South China Sea after Vietnam asserted that Chinese vessels used water cannon and rammed eight of its vessels at the weekend near an oil rig.
The United States has called China's deployment of the rig "provocative and unhelpful" to security in the region, urging restraint on all sides.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated that the waters the rig was operating in, around the Paracel Islands, were Chinese territory and that no other country had the right to interfere. "It must be pointed out that the recent series of irresponsible and wrong comments from the United States which neglect the facts about the relevant waters have encouraged certain counties' dangerous and provocative behaviour," Hua told a daily news briefing. "We urge the United States to act in accordance with maintaining the broader picture of regional peace and security, and act and speak cautiously on the relevant issue, stop making irresponsible remarks and do more to maintain regional peace and stability," she added.
Tensions are also brewing in another part of the sea, with Beijing demanding that the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
Philippine police said the boat and its crew were seized for hunting sea turtles, which are protected under local laws.
Hua said the Philippines' actions were illegal as they had entered Chinese waters to seize the boat and its crew. "We once more demand the Philippines immediately release them unconditionally ... China reserves the right to take further action," she said, without elaborating.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts or all of the oil and gas rich waters from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.