The United States has criticized China for its stance on a maritime dispute with Vietnam in the South China Sea.
US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday told visiting Chinese Army Chief General Fang Fenghui that Beijing’s behavior is “dangerous” and must stop.
Biden told Fang that the US is “seriously concerned” about China’s unilateral actions in the territorial dispute with Vietnam, the Associated Press reported, citing White House officials.
Biden said Washington doesn’t take a side in the territorial confrontation between the two neighbors.
His remarks come amid a standoff between Vietnam and China over an offshore oil rig. Vietnam claims that China has triggered protests in Vietnam by deploying an oil rig in the long-disputed seas.
Vietnamese officials say at least 16 Chinese workers were killed after the anti-China protest turned violent in central Ha Tinh Province on Wednesday night.
The US vice president said no nation should take “provocative” steps in the conflict that undermine stability and peace.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Fang warned US officials to be objective about the regional tensions or risk harming relations with Beijing.
The Chinese general vowed that despite angry tensions in Vietnam over the offshore oil rig, his country would maintain Beijing’s interests in waters contested by Hanoi.
China “cannot afford to lose an inch” of their ancestral territory, Fang said in defense of oil rig deployment in Vietnam.
“I think it’s quite clear…who is conducting normal activity and who is disrupting it,” he said. “Territory which has passed down by our ancestors into the hands of our generation – we cannot afford to lose an inch.”
China and Vietnam are locked in a longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea over islands and waters claimed by both countries.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.
Beijing has frequently warned the United States to be cautious in its words and actions with regard to territorial disputes involving China and its neighbors.