An unrepentant China has defended its actions in disputed Asian waters amid warnings of war with Vietnam, as Washington voiced “serious concern” after riots left two Chinese workers dead and more than 100 injured.
Vietnam has been shaken by its worst anti-China unrest in decades following Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters, which triggered ramming incidents involving Vietnamese and Chinese vessels.
As tensions mounted, a top Chinese general warned that Beijing “cannot afford to lose an inch” of what it considers its territory.
China has accused Hanoi of “connivance” with protesters who have targeted hundreds of foreign-owned factories in Vietnam, as long-simmering enmity between the communist rivals boiled over.
Two Chinese citizens were killed and more than 100 injured, Beijing’s foreign ministry said, expressing “serious concern”.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper turned up the rhetoric with a strident editorial on Friday supporting the use of “non-peaceful” measures against Vietnam and the Philippines.
“The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn’t mean China can’t resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines,” it said.
“Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China’s sincerely peaceful intentions,” the paper added.
US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday “underscored the United States’ serious concern about China’s unilateral actions in waters disputed with Vietnam” at a meeting with a top Chinese general at the White House, his office said in a statement.
“The vice president reaffirmed that while the United States does not take a position on the competing territorial claims, no nation should take provocative steps to advance claims over disputed areas in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.”
Worker demonstrations this week spread to 22 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces, according to the Vietnamese government, which called for “tough measures” to bring the escalating situation under control to avoid an exodus of foreign investors.
Taiwanese, Korean and Singaporean plants are among those that have been targeted by Vietnamese rioters.
Some Taiwanese workers have fled, while hundreds of Chinese nationals have poured across the border into neighbouring Cambodia.