MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Vietnam's prime minister on Wednesday called on the world to condemn China for causing what he called an "extremely dangerous" situation in the disputed South China Sea, citing Beijing's recent deployment of an oil rig near an island that both countries claim.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, standing beside President Benigno Aquino III after they held talks in Manila, said both of their countries would strengthen defense cooperation and were determined to oppose Chinese violations of international law. He cited Beijing's May 1 deployment of an oil rig in waters near the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.
Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have had confrontations near the oil rig since it was deployed. China's action also triggered angry protests in Vietnam that killed at least two Chinese workers and wounded more than 100 others.
The "president and I shared the deep concern over the current extremely dangerous situation caused by China's many actions that violate international law," Dung said in a news conference.
"The two sides are determined to oppose China's violations and call on countries and the international community to continue strongly condemning China and demanding China to immediately end the above said violations," he said.
Aquino did not mention the territorial disputes with China when he and Dung faced journalists but said they discussed how their countries could enhance defense and economic ties, adding that both governments aim to double two-way trade to $3 billion in two years. The two countries were now considering raising their ties to a "strategic partnership."
"In defense and security, we discussed how we can enhance confidence-building, our defense capabilities and inter-operability in addressing security challenges," Aquino said.
China and the Philippines are in a standoff over another South China Sea reef, the Second Thomas Shoal. Chinese coast guard ships have thrice attempted to block Filipino vessels delivering new batches of military personnel and food supply to Philippine marines keeping watch on the disputed area on board a long-grounded ship.
Many have feared the long-seething territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea could spark Asia's next major armed conflict. Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping territorial claims in the strategic area, but the disputes between China, on the one hand, and Vietnam and the Philippines, on the other, have particularly flared in recent years.
China has steadfastly said that virtually the entire resource-rich South China Sea has belonged to it since ancient times.
Chinese maritime surveillance ships took effective control of the Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines after Filipino government vessels withdrew from the disputed fishing ground two years ago. Alarmed by China's move, the Philippines challenged the legality of Beijing's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea before an international arbitration tribunal last year.
The Philippines took the legal step after exhausting other peaceful means to resolve its territorial disputes with China, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said, adding Vietnam may consider that step too if it runs out of options.
"I think Vietnam should make an assessment as to whether resorting to legal means is promotive of their national interest," del Rosario said.