U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is accusing China of bullying its Southeast Asian neighbors for the second day in a row, while paying a regional visit aimed at combating Beijing’s rising influence, Reuters reports.
Harris had earlier been condemned by Chinese state media of attempting to build a wedge between China and Southeast Asian states by claiming that Beijing utilized pressure and threats to defend its illegal South China Sea claims.
Harris said it was necessary to put more pressure on Beijing over its maritime claims during a speech in Hanoi on Wednesday.
Parts of the South China Sea, which is traversed by key shipping lanes and includes gas reserves and rich fishing grounds, are claimed by China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
China has built military installations on manmade islands in the South China Sea and opposes to foreign vessels passing through its territorial seas.
The U.S. Navy performs “freedom of navigation” missions through the disputed seas on a regular basis, which China opposes, claiming that they do not contribute to peace and stability.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague decided against China’s claim in 2016, but Beijing has disputed the decision.
According to the editorial, Harris’s speech in Singapore was an unfounded attack on China. The editorial said that the United States’ main commitment to Southeast Asia is to build a wedge between Southeast Asian countries and China.
In Hanoi, Harris spoke with Vietnam’s senior officials and pledged help in a number of areas, including improving the country’s marine security and increasing the number of U.S. Navy ships visiting the country.