BEIJING (Reuters) - China accused the United States on Tuesday of "maliciously hyping up" the South China Sea situation and making warrantless criticism, after the Pentagon said China was carrying out "coercive interference" in waters claimed by Vietnam.
A Chinese survey vessel on Saturday extended its activities to an area closer to Vietnam's coast, ship tracking data showed, after the United States and Australia expressed concern about China's action in the disputed waterway.
The Pentagon said China had "resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea".
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, referring to the China-Vietnam issue, said the United States had again and again "made thoughtless remarks, made warrantless criticisms against China, completely distorting the facts and confusing right from wrong".
"China urges the United States to stop this kind of malicious hyping up behaviour, and play a positive and constructive role in regional and international matters," he said.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel first entered Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) early last month where it began a weeks-long seismic survey, triggering a standoff between military and coastguard vessels from Vietnam and China.
Vietnam, which has developed increasingly close ties with the United States, given shared concerns about China, has demanded that Beijing removes the vessel.
Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute over the potentially energy-rich waters, which are also a busy shipping lane.
The Pentagon statement came as U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday predicted a trade deal with China after positive gestures by it, calming global markets that have been roiled by escalating tension between the world's two largest economies.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)