China Communist Party newspaper cautions Vietnam

BEIJING (AP) — A newspaper published by China's ruling Communist Party warned Vietnam on Saturday to show restraint or come out the loser in an escalating squabble over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnam on Friday announced a live ammunition drill in an apparent response to China's demand that it halt all oil exploration in an area of the South China Sea claimed by both sides.

Noting that and other recent statements from Vietnam's leadership, the Global Times in an editorial accused Hanoi of using the "lowest form of nationalism to create new enmity between the people of the two countries."

"Hanoi seems to be looking to dissipate domestic pressure and buck up morale at home, while at the same time further drawing in the concern of international society over the South China Sea dispute," the newspaper said.

It said Vietnam's tough stance had destroyed goodwill among the Chinese public and threatens to pressure China's leaders into responding with firmer actions.

"If Vietnam insists on making trouble, thinking that the more trouble it makes, the more benefits it gains, then we truly wish to remind those in Vietnam who determine policy to please read your history," the editorial concluded.

Vietnam announced its navy will carry out two exercises on Monday in an area off the country's central Quang Nam province and warned ships to stay out of the area. It was the first time Vietnam has issued such an alert about maritime drills.

The notice came a day after China and Vietnam traded demands to stay out of waters they claim. The two countries have a long history of maritime scraps in disputed parts of the South China Sea near the Spratly and Paracel islands, but the recent row has sparked an unusually hostile response from Hanoi.

Saturday's editorial mixed righteous indignation with patronizing language in a reflection of the condescension with which Beijing frequently regards its smaller Communist neighbor. While China assisted Vietnam's Communists against France and the United States, relations soon soured and China briefly invaded in 1979 in retaliation for Hanoi's toppling of Beijing's Khmer Rouge allies in Cambodia.

Despite its size and strength, China has "never sought to politically blackmail smaller countries," the editorial said.

"But when a small country turns that around and tries to blackmail China, the Chinese people will on the one hand feel rather angry, while on the other hand find it quite amusing," it said.

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