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US ‘maliciously hyping up’ South China Sea issue

China says the United States is “maliciously hyping up” the South China Sea situation after the Pentagon accused Beijing of “coercive interference” in waters claimed by Vietnam.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the United States had repeatedly “made thoughtless remarks, made warrantless criticisms against China, completely distorting the facts and confusing right from wrong.”

“China urges the United States to stop this kind of malicious hyping-up behavior, and play a positive and constructive role in regional and international matters.”

Earlier the Pentagon said China had “resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam’s longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea.”

China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. It has deployed a survey vessel into waters off Vietnam, a country that has developed increasingly close ties with the United States.

Vietnam says a Chinese oil survey vessel and its escorts have violated its sovereignty.

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The South China Sea has long been a source of tension between Beijing and Washington, which regularly dispatches warships and warplanes to the waters as part of what it describes as “freedom of navigation” patrols.

China has constantly warned the US against its military activities in the sea. Beijing has also urged Washington on numerous occasions to stop meddling in China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The Pentagon recently announced it was holding naval drills off the coast of Vietnam’s southernmost province of Ca Mau, where the US Navy will dispatch “suspicious boats” in a mock drill to help the navies of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to “search, verify and legally prosecute” the boats.

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