Vietnam-China sea dispute escalates
A squabble over territory in the South China Sea has escalated as Vietnam announced a live ammunition drill in an apparent response to China's demand that the Vietnamese halt all oil exploration in the area.
The verbal clash between the two communist neighbours follows a similar one between China and Philippines earlier in the week over another area of the South China Sea, where several countries are eyeing potentially rich oil and gas reserves.
The disputes generally pit China against its neighbours and have pulled in the United States, which has said it considers some of China's sea claims to be an infringement of international waters.
Vietnam said on Friday it would carry out two exercises totalling nine hours on Monday in an area off the country's central Quang Nam province.
The announcement on a state-owned website warned boats and ships to stay out of the area. It was the first time Vietnam has issued such an alert about conducting maritime drills.
It came a day after China and Vietnam traded diplomatic punches, with each demanding that the other stay out of waters they claim. China had accused Vietnam of endangering its fishermen's lives.
Earlier, Vietnam slammed China for interfering with its seismic survey off the central Vietnamese coast, saying the Chinese fishing boat supported by two patrol boats had damaged an exploration cable on the Vietnamese research boat.
Vietnam said it was the second time China had hindered the operation of an oil and gas exploration boat in two weeks, adding that its actions were "completely premeditated".
Hanoi says both incidents occurred well within the 200 nautical miles guaranteed to Vietnam as an exclusive economic zone by international law.
China said the Chinese fishing boat crew had instead been in waters around the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China and Vietnam and some other Asian nations. He said the crew had merely been protecting itself after being dragged backward for over an hour by a Vietnamese oil and gas exploration vessel - one, he said, that was "illegally working at the scene."