US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday once again slammed China with bullying its Southeast Asian neighbours. This was the second time in two days the US Vice President has attacked Beijing during a regional visit aimed at countering China's growing influence.
Reuters reported that the Chinese state media accused Kamala Harris of seeking to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations with comments in Singapore that Beijing used coercion and intimidation to back its unlawful South China Sea claims.
Speaking in Hanoi, Harris said that there was a need to increase pressure on Beijing over its maritime claims.
During a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Kamala Harris said, "We need to find ways to pressure, raise the pressure…on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims."
China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, which is crossed by vital shipping lanes and contains gas fields and rich fishing grounds.
It is also said that China has established military outposts on artificial islands in the South China Sea and objects to foreign warships sailing through what it claims is its sovereign waters.
Meanwhile, the US Navy is regularly conducting "freedom of navigation" operations through the disputed waters, which China objects to, saying they do not help promote peace or stability.
In 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against the claims made by China, but Beijing has rejected the ruling.
The state run China Daily's editorial responded to Harris's comments in Singapore and said, "While pointing a finger at China and accusing it of 'coercion' and 'intimidation', Harris willfully ignored her own hypocrisy in attempting to coerce and intimidate regional countries to join Washington in its scheme to contain China."
The editorial further said that Kamala Harris's Singapore speech was a baseless and said, "It seems that the United States' only commitment to Southeast Asia is its dedicated efforts to drive a wedge between the Southeast Asian nations and China."
Meanwhile, Harris met with Vietnam's top leaders and offered support in several key areas, including the enhancement of its maritime security and more US Navy ship visits to Vietnam.
The US administration has called rivalry with China "the biggest geopolitical test" of the century and Southeast Asia has seen a series of high-profile visits by top administration officials who visited Hanoi in late July.
The arrival of Kamala Harris in Hanoi was delayed on Tuesday after the US Embassy in Vietnam said it had detected an "anomalous health incident", potentially related to the mysterious Havana Syndrome.
During this time, Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and China's ambassador to Vietnam held a previously unannounced meeting, during which Chinh said Vietnam does not take sides in foreign policy. The Chinese ambassador promised a donation of 2 million COVID-19 vaccines during the meeting.
China is Vietnam's largest trading partner and Vietnam is heavily reliant on materials and equipment from China for its manufacturing activities.