BEIJING - A state-run Chinese newspaper backed the use of "non-peaceful" measures against Vietnam and the Philippines Friday, as it considered the possibility of war in the strategically vital South China Sea.
Vietnam is experiencing its worst anti-China unrest in decades following Beijing's deployment of an oil rig to disputed waters, with at least one Chinese worker killed and more than 100 injured.
"The South China Sea disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, but that doesn't mean China can't resort to non-peaceful measures in the face of provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines," the Global Times newspaper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, wrote in an editorial.
"Many people believe that a forced war would convince some countries of China's sincerely peaceful intentions," the paper added.
Beijing claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, including areas close to the coasts of other littoral states, and the Philippines has provoked its fury by seeking United Nations arbitration in the dispute between the two.
China's foreign ministry has condemned both Manila and Hanoi, and accused Vietnam's leaders on Thursday of "indulgence and connivance" with anti-China demonstrators for failing to rein in the protests.
Foreign minister Wang Yi denounced the riots in a telephone conversation Thursday night with his Vietnamese counterpart, according to the Global Times.
Beijing has also dispatched to Vietnam a working team led by assistant foreign minister Liu Jianchao, according to a diplomatic statement.
At a news conference on Friday, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang warned that the riots could have repercussions for Vietnam's business interests.
"The incident has led Chinese companies to stop operations and suffer enormous property losses," Shen said.
The state-run China Daily newspaper weighed in, warning that if the violence continues to escalate, "it will only add to the distrust and enmity between the Vietnamese and Chinese peoples".
"The lethal riots are proof that China's calls for dialogue over the two countries' conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea have fallen on deaf ears in Vietnam," the paper wrote. "That our restraint has been replied with such bloody violence is intolerable."
The official Xinhua news agency, meanwhile, wrote in a Friday commentary that Hanoi "bears unshirkable responsibility for the violent attacks against Chinese companies and nationals, and must take all necessary and effective measures to ensure the safety of foreign companies and nationals in Vietnam".
Xinhua appeared to take a more measured tone towards the confrontation than the Global Times, however, noting that "violence and provocation should never be the answer to disputes between countries, and must be stopped immediately".