Improved relations between the U.S. and Vietnam must not lead to greater pressure on China or threats to its interests, an official Chinese newspaper said yesterday.
While China applauds the spirit of reconciliation between Hanoi and Washington, “whatever common interests the two countries pursue, they should never compromise China’s national interests and threaten regional security,” the English-language China Daily said in an editorial.
The comments point to Beijing’s underlying concerns about closer ties between its chief regional rival and its southern neighbor, with which it is in dispute over ownership of islands in the South China Sea.
Any attempt to enlist Vietnam in an effort to contain China “bodes ill for regional peace and stability, as it would further complicate the situation in the South China Sea, and risk turning the region into a tinderbox of conflicts,” the newspaper said.
China on Monday formally welcomed Washington’s decision to fully lift a five-decade arms embargo on Vietnam during a visit by President Barack Obama, saying it is happy to see Vietnam develop “normal and friendly cooperative relationships with all other countries, including the United States.”
China has looked on warily as the U.S. and Vietnam have steadily strengthened their relationship in recent years, in line with growing Vietnamese concern over Chinese moves to assert its maritime claims.
Despite being fraternal Communist neighbors, China and Vietnam fought a border war in 1979, and clashes in 1988 over their conflicting claims in the South China Sea killed dozens of people. The tensions reared again in 2014, when China parked an oil rig off Vietnam’s central coast, sparking confrontations at sea and deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam.
While the China Daily noted Obama’s assertion that lifting the arms embargo had nothing to do with China, the outspoken nationalist tabloid Global Times dismissed that notion outright, calling it a “very poor lie which reveals the truth — exacerbating the strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing.”
The U.S. is “taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea,” the newspaper said. AP