CHINA - China has hit back at comments by the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that Beijing's actions in the South China Sea have infringed Vietnam's territorial sovereignty.
Le Luong Minh also said China had violated the Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Le's comments ran counter to the ASEAN consensus and would hurt China-ASEAN ties. Beijing also called on Le "not to say or do things that are not commensurate with his position".
Hong made the remarks after Le told The Wall Street Journal that the first thing to do was to get China out of "the territorial waters of Vietnam", a move that he said would be conducive to restoring confidence in negotiations aimed at resolving the issue.
Hong emphasised that the South China Sea issue is not a dispute between China and ASEAN, and urged the group to abide by its own rules to not interfere in any particular conflict, and to safeguard China-ASEAN ties with concrete action.
"Le's statement did not match his status as the bloc's secretary-general because he "ignored the facts, violated ASEAN's neutral stance and unilaterally sent out the wrong signals", Hong said.
According to Xu Liping, a researcher into Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "The current friction between China and Vietnam is the result of strong harassment by Vietnamese vessels which undermined China's sovereignty and ocean rights, and sabotaged the normal maritime order.