United States Vice President Kamala Harris has urged Vietnam to join the U.S. in putting “pressure” on China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The statement by Harris came during a visit to Vietnam on Wednesday.
“We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure…on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Harris said. She was speaking to reporters at the start of a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi.
She added that steps are needed “to challenge (China’s) bullying.” She was speaking of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China claims large parts of the South China Sea. It says its claims come from historical usage of the waterway. But other nations also claim territory in the sea. Countries with claims include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. Taiwan also claims parts of the sea.
China has angered other nations in recent years by creating small man-made islands in disputed areas. It has built military structures and placed military equipment on some of the land.
In 2016, an international court ruled against China's historical claims to areas of the sea in a case involving the Philippines. China rejects that ruling.
Harris also expressed support for sending an additional U.S. Coast Guard ship to Vietnam to help defend its security interests in the disputed waterway. And she promised the U.S. would keep “a strong presence in the South China Sea” to challenge China.
One day earlier during a visit to Singapore, Harris said China’s actions to press its territorial claims in the South China Sea amounted to “intimidation.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin answered Harris’ comments on Wednesday. Wang accused the U.S. of seeking to defend “U.S. hegemony and its own interests.”
“China firmly rejects the U.S. deployment of law enforcement forces in the South China Sea,” Wang told reporters. Such activities represent U.S. “meddling” that affects “peace and stability” in the area, Wang added.
Harris will remain in Vietnam until Thursday. U.S. officials said her visits to Singapore and Vietnam aimed to strengthen U.S. ties in Southeast Asia to balance China's growing military and economic influence.
Harris announced a series of new partnerships and support for Vietnam in areas including climate change, trade and the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the United States will send 1 million additional injections of the Pfizer vaccine to Vietnam. This will bring the total U.S. vaccine donations to the country to 6 million.
The U.S. will also provide $23 million to help Vietnam with efforts to carry out vaccinations and prepare for future disease threats. The Defense Department is also providing 77 freezers to store vaccines throughout the country.
On Wednesday, Harris announced the launch in Hanoi of an office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The office is meant to be a center for dealing with infectious disease issues across Southeast Asia.
Additional U.S. aid to Vietnam includes investments to help the country move to cleaner energy systems and to expand the use of electric vehicles. It also includes millions of dollars in aid to help clear unexploded weapons left over from the Vietnam War.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
abide – v. accept or obey
challenge – v. to express disagreement with ideas, rules or someone’s authority
bully – v. to purposely frighten someone who is smaller or weaker than you
intimidate – v. to intentionally make fearful or timid
hegemony – n. the position (especially countries) of being the strongest and most powerful
meddle – v. try to have influence over things that are not your responsibility
stability – n. the quality of not being likely to change or move
freezer –n. a device that can keep things at freezing temperatures