China a serious threat to peace: Vietnam PM

China a serious threat to peace: Vietnam PM
A Chinese coast guard ship sailing next to a Vietnamese coast guard vessel (front) near China's oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

MANILA - Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Wednesday that China's placing of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters had "seriously threatened peace".

Speaking in Manila after meeting Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Dung said the leaders agreed that China should be condemned by the international community for the oil rig deployment and many other illegal actions in the sea.

"With regard to the situation in the East Sea, the president and I shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situations caused by China's many actions that violate international law," Dung said, standing alongside Aquino at the presidential palace.

"In particular, China's illegal placement of the oil rig Haiyang 981 and deployment of escorting vessels to protect the rig... have seriously threatened peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea." Vietnam refers to the South China Sea, which is believed to contain vast deposits of oil and gas, as the East Sea.

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbours.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, have competing claims to parts of the sea, and the disputes have for decades made it a potential trigger for conflict.

China gained control of the Paracel islands in 1974 after a battle with South Vietnam that left about 50 Vietnamese military personnel dead.

Dozens more Vietnamese troops were killed in another losing battle with China for control of Johnson Reef in the Spratlys archipelago to the south of the Paracels.

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