The Pentagon has accused China of “coercive interference” with Vietnamese oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, saying that such “bullying tactics” are violating international rules and norms in the Indo-Pacific region.

On Monday, the US Department of Defense said it was “greatly concerned” at Chinese activities, but offered no specifics other than it being related to oil and gas. It accused Beijing of violating the pledge made by Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at the Shangri-La Dialogue, to “stick to the path of peaceful development.”

China will “not win the trust of its neighbors nor the respect of the international community,” the Pentagon statement said.

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The US sees the region as a “free and open” place where “all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms,” the Pentagon concluded.

Last week, a Chinese survey ship sailed into the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claimed by Vietnam, prompting protests from Washington. The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded that the US was “sowing division” in the region.

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“The aim is to bring chaos to the situation in the South China Sea and damage regional peace and stability,” said spokesman Geng Shuang. “China is resolutely opposed to this.”

China and the US are at odds over Beijing’s maritime claims to a number of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, also claimed by several US allies. Washington has a sizeable military presence in Japan, South Korea and in the Philippines, and renamed its Pacific Command (USPACOM) to “Indo-Pacific” last year, in an effort to woo India.

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Source: RT

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