Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung delivered a withering criticism of China over the weekend but his regional allies appeared less keen to antagonize Beijing.
Dung took China to task at a leaders’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, and was joined by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in calling for stronger action against Beijing’s aggressive behavior, media reports said.
It was Dung’s harshest statement since China anchored an oil rig in disputed territory off the Paracel Islands which are claimed by both countries and other parties in the region including the Philippines.
On Sunday, protests erupted in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hue and Da Nang demanding China remove the structure.
Security in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation are under threat from Beijing’s dangerous actions, Dung was quoted as saying. Beijing and Hanoi have accused each other of ramming each other’s ships near the islands.
Although ASEAN expressed “serious concerns” over the developments, it refrained from criticizing Beijing in a communique issued at the end of the summit, Associated Press reported.
China’s foreign ministry said the issue is not a problem between China and ASEAN and that it is opposed to certain member states trying to use it to sow discord.
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