BEIJING • China has accused the United States of "maliciously hyping up" the South China Sea situation and making "warrantless criticisms", after the Pentagon said China was carrying out "coercive interference" in waters claimed by Vietnam.
A Chinese survey vessel last Saturday extended its activities to an area nearer Vietnam's coast, ship tracking data showed, after the US and Australia expressed concern about China's actions in the disputed waterway.
The Pentagon said China had "resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, referring to the China-Vietnam issue, said the US had repeatedly "made thoughtless remarks, made warrantless criticisms against China, completely distorting the facts and confusing right (and) wrong".
"China urges the United States to stop this kind of malicious 'hyping up' behaviour, and play a positive and constructive role in regional and international matters," he said.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel first entered Vietnam's exclusive economic zone early last month, where it began a weeks-long seismic survey, triggering a stand-off between military and coast guard vessels from Vietnam and China.
Vietnam - which has developed increasingly close ties with the US, given shared concerns about China - has demanded that Beijing remove the vessel.
Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute over the potentially energy-rich waters, which are also a busy shipping lane.
The Pentagon statement came as US President Donald Trump on Monday predicted a trade deal with China after positive gestures by Beijing, calming global markets that have been roiled by escalating tensions between the world's two largest economies.