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International relations

Vietnam seeks 'peaceful' solution to South China Sea tensions

Prime minister urges cooperation by neighbors as US and China trade barbs

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, right, meets with Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad in Hanoi on Aug. 27. (Photo by Tomoya Onishi)

HANOI -- Vietnam will work with its Southeast Asian neighbors to seek a peaceful solution to tensions in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told reporters here Tuesday after a meeting with Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad.

The remarks came a day after the U.S. Department of Defense expressed concern over the situation, in which a Chinese survey ship and escort vessels have sailed off the Spratly Islands for over a month.

Vietnam has told China the vessels must leave waters that Hanoi maintains are in its exclusive economic zone.

"China will not win the trust of its neighbors nor the respect of the international community by maintaining its bullying tactics," the Pentagon said Monday.

Beijing rebutted the American statement.

"The rights and wrongs of the issue are quite clear," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Tuesday. "The U.S. has made irresponsible remarks over and over again, disregarding facts and calling black white, and China is firmly opposed to that."

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