China suspends some 'exchange plans' with Vietnam following protests over oil rig

Protesters carry Vietnamese national flags as they enter a factory during an anti-China protest in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province on May 13, 2014. China said Sunday it has suspended some plans for bilateral exchanges with Vietnam followi
Protesters carry Vietnamese national flags as they enter a factory during an anti-China protest in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province on May 13, 2014. China said Sunday it has suspended some plans for bilateral exchanges with Vietnam following deadly anti-Chinese violence there, as Hanoi sought to quell protests over a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - China said Sunday it has suspended some plans for bilateral exchanges with Vietnam following deadly anti-Chinese violence there, as Hanoi sought to quell protests over a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters.

The unrest in Vietnam has so far led to the deaths of two Chinese nationals and evacuation of more than 3,000, including 16 who were "critically injured", the official news agency Xinhua reported earlier.

The violence was "damaging the atmosphere and conditions for exchanges and cooperation between China and Vietnam", foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on the ministry's website.

"The Chinese side as of today... suspended part of its bilateral exchange plans," Mr Hong said, without specifying what the plans entailed. "China will see how the situation develops and look into taking further steps," he said.

The foreign ministry last week accused Hanoi of "connivance" with anti-China protesters who torched dozens of factories, and urged it to punish perpetrators and offer compensation for damages.

The violence, which has targeted foreign-owned enterprises, marks the worst anti-China unrest in Vietnam in decades.

It erupted after Beijing this month deployed an oil rig in a disputed area in the South China Sea, inflaming long-simmering hostility between the two communist neighbours, who have fought territorial skirmishes in the past.

Vietnam and other Asian nations have expressed growing concern at China's increasingly assertive moves to assert its maritime claims.

Worker protests broke out last week in 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces, authorities there said, with angry crowds setting fire to foreign-owned factories and enterprises believed to be linked to China or which employed Chinese staff.

China has advised its nationals against travelling to Vietnam, and on Sunday said it was dispatching five ships to help with further evacuations.

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