Vietnam spars with China at UN in maritime spat

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - Vietnam has hit back against China at UN headquarters in New York, ordering Beijing to withdraw an oil rig and stop "interfering" with maritime safety in an ongoing territorial row.

The Vietnamese mission asked its position paper to be circulated to the General Assembly after China sought support at the United Nations on Monday.

Hanoi and Beijing are embroiled in a bitter war of words, trading accusations over maritime confrontations near an oil rig that China moved into contested waters near the Paracel Islands.

Vietnam demanded that China withdraw the oil rig, "escort vessels from Vietnam's maritime zones and stop all activities that are interfering with maritime safety and security, and affecting regional peace and security," said the document.

The Vietnamese government called on China to "promptly commence government-level negotiations" on sovereignty over the contested waters.

In its document sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, China alleged that Vietnam rammed Chinese vessels more than 1,400 times near oil drilling operations in the South China Sea.

Tensions over the oil rig sparked violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month. Beijing says four Chinese citizens died, while Vietnam says there were three Chinese fatalities.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors, and has become increasingly assertive in staking those claims.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have competing claims to parts of the sea.

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