BEIJING - China on Monday criticized the ASEAN Secretary-General's reported call for China to "get out of" disputed waters.
Le Long Minh, a Vietnamese, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that the "next step now, we have to get China out of the territorial waters of" Vietnam.
The comment came after fighting between Vietnamese and Chinese workers broke out in central Ha Tinh province last Wednesday (May 14). The violence killed two people and wounded 140, Vietnam said. China's foreign ministry also put the casualties at two dead and 100 injured, Xinhua said.
Fury gripped Vietnam after Chinese state energy firm CNOOC deployed dozens of ships two weeks ago and towed a $1 billion oil rig to a spot 240 km (150 miles) off Vietnam's coast in an area both counties claim.
China's Foreign Ministry on Monday urged ASEAN to remain neutral.
"The South China Sea issue is not an issue between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The relevant person's comment on the South China Sea issue disregarded the facts, went against the neutral position of ASEAN, unilaterally promoted the views of specific countries, gave the wrong signals to the outside world, and does not comply with the position as the Secretary-General. It also did no good for the development of relations between China and ASEAN. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition," ministry spokesman Hong Lei told media at a regular briefing in Beijing.
"We demand that ASEAN abides by its neutral position, doesn't get involved in certain disputes, takes practical actions to protect the development of China's and ASEAN's relationship," Hong added.
China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Although the two Communist neighbors have close economic and political ties, Vietnamese resentment against China runs deep, rooted in feelings of national pride and the struggle for independence after decades of war and more than 1,000 years of Chinese colonial rule that ended in the 10th century.