Thousands of people attacked businesses and factories in Vietnam's
industrial parks earlier in the week, targeting Chinese workers and
Chinese-owned businesses after Beijing parked an oil rig in a part
of the South China Sea claimed by Hanoi. Many Taiwanese-owned firms
bore the brunt because the crowds believed they were owned by
The riots risk derailing a major driver of the country's economic
growth - industrial parks account for more than 30 percent of
Vietnam's exports and have attracted around $110 billion in foreign
The Vietnamese government has said one person was killed in the
rioting on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but a doctor at a hospital
near one area of clashes said he had seen 21 dead bodies and that at
least 100 people were wounded.
An eyewitness to fighting between Chinese and Vietnamese workers in
an industrial zone in the same area said she had seen at least 13
There were no reports of fresh violence on Friday.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called on police and
state and local authorities to restore order and ensure the safety
of people and property in the affected areas.
"Prime Minister asked and called every Vietnam citizen to promote
patriotism and protect the fatherland's sacred sovereignty by
practical activities following the law," said a text message sent to
mobile phone subscribers.
"Don't allow bad people to instigate extremist actions that damage
the country's interest and image."
It is the worst breakdown in ties between China and Vietnam since
the two Communist neighbors fought a brief but bloody border war in
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said China's relations with
its neighbors were straining ties with the United States, raising
questions over how the world's two biggest economies can work
"This is raising some fundamental questions for us about China's
long-term strategic intentions," the U.S. official told Reuters,
speaking on condition of anonymity. He said Beijing's moves appeared
to fit a "pattern" of advancing territorial claims through coercion
"China's activities are straining the U.S.-China relationship
because it raises questions about our ability to partner together in
Asia or even bilaterally."
The Philippines, one of Washington's closest allies in Asia, has
said China is reclaiming land on a reef in the oil- and gas-rich
South China Sea that both countries claim, and is building what
appears to be an airstrip on it. It has offered the United States
the use of an underdeveloped naval base on a nearby island to ensure
U.S. warships can enter the vicinity.
Vice President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials told visiting
General Fang Fenghui, chief of general staff in China's army, that
Beijing's behavior in the maritime disputes was "dangerous and
provocative" and must stop, the official said.
"A series of mistaken American statements have emboldened some
countries' dangerous and provocative actions," China's foreign
ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in
Beijing, urging Washington to be more responsible with its words and
The renewed tensions in the South China Sea underscore one of the
biggest challenges in Asia facing President Barack Obama, who is
under pressure by America's allies to accelerate a "pivot" of
military assets to the region to counter China's rising influence.
[to top of second column]
The crisis has erupted after a week-long visit to Asia by Obama in
late April in which he pledged that Washington would live up to its
obligation to defend its allies in the region.
China has said Obama's strategic shift toward Asia had encouraged
countries such as Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines to make trouble
with Beijing. Washington insists its Asia-Pacific re-engagement is
not meant to contain China's rise but that Beijing must conduct
itself according to international norms.
"We're concerned that China has learned the wrong lessons from
Russia and Ukraine and has decided that unilateral assertion is the
way to advance China's interests," the U.S. official said.
Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula - and perceptions
of limited U.S. options to get Moscow to back down - have heightened
unease in parts of Asia over whether Beijing will be emboldened to
use force to pursue its territorial claims in the East and South
Authorities in Cambodia, which borders Vietnam, said about 1,000
Chinese had crossed into the country through the frontier since the
violence began earlier in the week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh confirmed one death in the
clashes, and described media reports and accounts on social
networking sites of higher casualties as "groundless".
China's state news agency Xinhua reported that at least two Chinese
nationals had died and more than 100 were hospitalized.
The worst violence appears to have taken place in an industrial zone
in the central province of Ha Tinh.
Journalists' movements are restricted in tightly controlled Vietnam,
where the government maintains an iron grip on law and order, and it
was not possible to get independent confirmation of the death toll.
The doctor at the Ha Tinh hospital who had seen 21 dead bodies and
the witness who saw the fighting in the industrial zone did not want
to be identified by name.
A steel plant being built in the province by Formosa Plastics Group,
Taiwan's biggest investor in Vietnam, was set on fire after fighting
between Vietnamese and Chinese workers, the company said, prompting
Taipei to demand compensation.
(Additional reporting by Nguyen Phuong Linh, Martin Petty and
Michael Gold; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Paul Tait
and Ian Geoghegan)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.