China demands Asean neutrality over South China Sea

Anti-Vietnam protesters hold posters and a picture showing late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh hugging with late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1960, during a protest defending China's territory claim and condemning Vietnam's anti-Chinese
Anti-Vietnam protesters hold posters and a picture showing late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh hugging with late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1960, during a protest defending China's territory claim and condemning Vietnam's anti-Chinese protests, in Hong Kong on May 19, 2014. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) not to take sides in the South China Sea row stoked by what he called "Vietnamese provocations". -- PHOTO : REUTERS 

BEIJING - A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) not to take sides in the South China Sea row stoked by what he called "Vietnamese provocations".

Mr Hong Lei made the remarks at a daily news briefing on Monday, when commenting on Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh's recent comments on the matter, which China is strongly dissatisfied with and opposed to.

Mr Le claimed that China has encroached upon Vietnam's territorial integrity, and violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Mr Hong said the current dispute is not a matter between China and Asean, but Mr Le has taken sides to advocate a certain country's claims, sending out wrong signals, regardless of facts, or Asean's position.

Mr Hong added that such actions are not something the secretary-general of Asean should do, and the actions are also detrimental to the development of China-Asean ties.

The maritime row between China and Vietnam has arisen because the Vietnamese side mobilised ships to forcibly disrupt China's normal operations on its offshore oil rig, Mr Hong said, adding the incidents not only jeopardised China's sovereignty and maritime rights, but also undermined maritime peace, stability and order.

China demands that Asean detach itself from the disputes, and to safeguard China-Asean ties with concrete actions, Mr Hong said.

Central and southern Vietnamese provinces witnessed a spate of violent anti-China protests against foreign companies last week, which left at least two Chinese dead and more than 100 injured.

The protests, lootings and arson attacks came amid anger over Chinese oil drilling in a disputed area of the South China Sea.