Talks between Chinese and Vietnamese officials in Hanoi over disputed waters turned turbulent Wednesday, as China's representative accused his counterparts of "hyping up" the conflict.
China's Foreign Ministry quotes State Councilor Yang Jiechi as telling Vietnam to stop disturbing Chinese operations at sea, inflating differences, or creating new disputes over challenged territory in the South China Sea.
Yang also said the disputed Paracel Islands are "China's inherent territory."
There was no immediate Vietnamese comment on the talks. The Vietnamese side was represented by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
The Hanoi discussions were the first high-level talks between the two sides since the May deployment of a Chinese state-run oil rig, which led to a maritime standoff and deadly anti-China protests in Vietnam.
China, Vietnam oil rig dispute, near Paracel Islands
Before the meeting, Foreign Minister Minh expressed hope that the talks would help improve strained relations between Beijing and Hanoi.
"We wish to discuss and resolve the complicated situation in the East Sea and to help develop healthy and stable relations between the two countries for the benefit of both sides and the region," said Minh.
Yang earlier acknowledged the dispute is damaging relations between the two communist-led countries, which fought a bloody, three-week border battle in 1979.
"China and Vietnam relations are experiencing a difficult period. On this trip, as appointed by our Central Committee, I am to discuss candidly and thoroughly with Mr. Pham Binh Minh the two countries' relations and current issues in the South China Sea," said Yang.
Vietnam says Chinese ships have sunk one of its ships and damaged 24 others, as well as injured 12 members of its fisheries surveillance force. But China accuses Vietnamese ships of being the aggressors, saying they have rammed Chinese ships 120 times since early May.
The U.S. has said it does not take sides in the dispute and wants countries in the region to settle their differences peacefully.
China's territorial claims in the South China Sea overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.