BEIJING - China accused the United States Tuesday of emboldening Asian nations in their territorial disputes with Beijing, as diplomatic exchanges over the latest maritime row grew sharper.
China earlier this month moved an oil drilling rig into South China Sea waters also claimed by Vietnam.
Hanoi last week said Chinese vessels had rammed its patrol ships and turned water cannon on them near the site. Beijing said in turn that Vietnamese vessels had initiated the rammings, forcing its ships to respond.
In a phone call to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry called Beijing's actions "provocative", the State Department said in a statement.
China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted at a regular briefing Tuesday: "It is the US coming in and making a series of erroneous remarks about the issue in the waters, encouraging certain countries' threatening and provocative behaviour.
"We hope that US can consider carefully, if it really wants the Pacific to be pacific, then what role should the US be playing?"
In the telephone conversation, Wang urged the US "to be prudent in words and actions", Hua said.
Washington has previously labelled China's actions with the drilling rig as provocative, with Beijing rejecting the comments as "irresponsible" and "wrong".
The confrontation over the drilling rig is the latest in a series of disputes between China and its Asian neighbours over territory in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Among them is a growing row over disputed islands with Japan that has raised concerns of an unintended clash between the economic powerhouses.
China also claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.
China and Vietnam, which fought a brief border war in 1979, have been locked in a long dispute over their contested waters. They routinely exchange diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and ownership of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
- Impose an 'unaffordable price' -
The state-run China Daily on Tuesday echoed official criticisms while also calling for Beijing's territorial challengers to be forced to pay an "unaffordable price".
In an editorial it accused Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines of worsening the situation in the region, encouraged by "malicious third parties".
Beijing and Manila are also locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, and last week Philippine police detained 11 Chinese fishermen off the disputed Half Moon Shoal. Nine were charged on Monday, despite Beijing's warning of a dire effect on relations.
"The Philippines has singled itself out as a determined challenger of Chinese national interests and the devoted hatchet man of foreign anti-China forces," the China Daily said.
"It needs to be convinced that it has made a choice that, if it persists, means paying an unaffordable price.
"Beijing must make sure that every claimant knows blackmail and extortion will not work, and that it will not compromise its territorial integrity," it said.
"A rat will not be pacified when we hesitate to pelt it for fear of smashing the vase beside it."
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