May 19, 2014 2:33 am JST

China ratcheting up pressure on Vietnam following riots

TETSUYA ABE and MANABU ITO, Nikkei staff writers

BEIJING/HANOI -- China is exerting more pressure on Vietnam in response to violent anti-Chinese demonstrations in the country over escalating territorial disputes, evacuating its citizens and canceling bilateral programs.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei announced Sunday that some planned exchanges will be suspended, noting that the violent demonstrations targeting Chinese nationals have destroyed the conditions necessary for mutual cooperation.

     Also on Sunday, the Chinese government urged its citizens not to travel to Vietnam. Hong said Beijing may take additional measures depending on future developments, implying that trade between the two countries may also be affected.

     Beijing has supplied chartered aircraft to transport Chinese nationals injured in demonstrations back home, and is moving to provide five ships to help employees of Chinese companies and their families evacuate Vietnam. By Saturday, more than 3,000 Chinese citizens had returned home.

     The Vietnamese government, which initially condoned the anti-China demonstrations, has now begun cracking down out of concern for public safety. Many of the demonstrations planned for Sunday across the nation were blocked by police. In Hanoi, public safety police closed roads and a park facing the Chinese embassy, urging protestors to go home. Similar measures were taken in Ho Chi Minh City, where some 100 people began to demonstrate but were soon dispersed.

     International criticism grew at the inaction of Hanoi after the rioting led to Chinese casualties, and damaged plants operated by Taiwanese and Japanese companies.

     But now, frustration among citizens will likely grow in response to the suppression. Some Hanoi officials believe anti-government groups helped to exacerbate the riots.

    The protests began last week over China's decision to deploy an oil rig in a disputed area in the South China Sea.