Official media reports in Vietnam have used harsh words to attack Chinese analysts who reportedly said Beijing has “historic sovereignty” in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The controversial comments were made at an international conference on the South China Sea, which concluded Tuesday in Vietnam's southern coastal city of Vung Tau.
“Chinese scholar distorts the South China Sea situation,” read the headline in Tuoi Tre, one of Vietnam's most respected dailies.
Thanh Nien, another popular newspaper, said Chinese scholars “voiced China’s official lines to defend Beijing’s illegal activities.”
The two-day annual conference comes at a time when nationalist sentiment is still running high over Beijing’s assertive moves to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.
Tran Duc Long, Deputy General Secretary of the Association of Vietnamese Lawyers, one of the co-organizers of the gathering, said the seminar was expanded this year against a backdrop of China’s massive island building spree in contested waters.
“We aim to show the viewpoints of foreign scholars from all over the world in order to prove that what China has done in the South China Sea does not conform to international laws, including the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” he said.
Seeking International Support
Vietnamese leaders have been pressing for international support for their position during recent trips overseas.
President Truong Tan Sang, who is visiting Berlin, was quoted Wednesday by official media as urging the German parliament to “back Vietnam’s positions related to the South China Sea issue.”
Vietnam’s head of state is visiting Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Sang publicly rejected sovereignty claims by Chinese President Xi Jinping over disputed islands in the South China Sea in September, drawing praises from the Vietnamese public for standing up against the giant neighbor.
Speaking at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on claimants to “refrain from the use of force or threat to use force, exercise restraint and avoid complicating the situation” in disputed waters.
In a separate development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei Wednesday criticized the Philippines' unilateral move to file a legal case against Beijing before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, calling it a "political provocation in legal clothing."
Vietnam, which has expressed support for the legal case, signed a strategic partnership with the Philippines last week to deepen military ties and maritime cooperation.
Meanwhile, the U.S. announced a package of up to $259 million in new maritime security aid for Southeast Asian allies and partners, including $40 million for Vietnam.
In addition to Vietnam and the Philippines, China also has competing South China Sea claims with Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.