Malacañang said Wednesday Vietnam was “risking armed hostility” with China amid reports that vessels belonging to the two countries have engaged in a standoff near an oil block in the South China Sea.
“It means also that Vietnam is risking armed hostility between the two countries and risking the lives of their people,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.
China and Vietnam have long traded barbs over the resource-rich South China Sea, which Beijing claims most of.
Tensions between Vietnam and China over the sea came to a head in 2014 when Beijing moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi, sparking weeks of deadly anti-China protests across Vietnam.
Last week, Vietnam demanded the removal of a Chinese survey ship and its escorts from Vietnamese waters, arguing their presence violated Hanoi’s sovereignty.
But Hanoi has neither confirmed nor denied reports by US-based think tanks that Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have engaged in a standoff for several weeks near an oil block in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
Panelo said the “best method” for solving disputes is through diplomatic negotiations.
Another claimant, Malaysia, conducted a series of missile firings in the South China Sea last week which came after a Chinese coastguard vessel patrolled around Malaysia-administered Luconia Shoals in May.
Panelo did not comment on Malaysia’s actions.
The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 handed a sweeping victory for the Philippines on the lawsuit it filed against China over their South China Sea disputes during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III.
The tribunal invalidated China’s historical claims to nearly the entire South China Sea and clarified Manila’s maritime entitlements.
Beijing does not recognize the ruling which Duterte temporarily set aside in pursuit of warmer relations with the Asian powerhouse.
Other claimants include Brunei and Taiwan.