China is telling the U.S.to stop sending American ships and military aircraft close to islands that Beijing claims in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday that Vietnam had legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracels, and asked China to stop the action.
Even as the United States and China butt heads over trade, their top diplomats and defense chiefs will be meeting in Washington Friday, looking to tamp down tensions on other issues that have put a chill on relations between the two world powers. All three are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Tensions have flared after China turned seven disputed reefs into islands, which it later equipped with missile defense systems.
"I reiterated the USA policy has not changed, and that we are concerned about China's increasing efforts to coerce others constraining Taiwan's worldwide space", Pompeo said.
"There is no such problem of freedom of navigation and overflights being obstructed, so to use this issue as an excuse to military action is unjustifiable", he said.
Pompeo, who has made religious freedom a priority at his State Department, said he had had a "good conversation" on the US' concerns about China's treatment of religious minorities amid reports that Beijing is in the midst of a large-scale effort to "re-educate" its Uighur Muslim population concentrated in Xinjiang province.
The United States sees Taiwan as part of a network of Asian democracies, and informal Taiwan-U.S. ties have improved under U.S. President Donald Trump.
However, speaking in Singapore at a forum on Wednesday, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said there was a risk of an economic "Iron Curtain" falling between China and the United States unless China carried out reforms and that some people in the United States would like to "divorce" China.
Trump said in a tweet last week that he had a "long and very good" phone call with Xi, with discussions set to recommence when the two meet in Argentina.
The mention of the so-called maritime militia, which the Pentagon says is "the world's largest" and "has organizational ties to, and is sometimes directed by, China's armed forces", was unusual in that it is rarely mentioned in formal, high-level talks.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asserted USA rights to freedom of navigation but also said the two sides should work together on areas of common interest. Those operations are meant to enforce the right of free passage in global waters under worldwide law.
"And we made clear that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Mattis said.
Lyle Morris, a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corp. focusing on Chinese foreign policy and Asia-pacific security, wrote on Twitter that while military-to-military relationship is "stable and communication is open and frank", both sides "are deeply entrenched in a security dilemma" in the South China Sea in which they disagree on the factors and causes of militarization.
"I have agreed with President Trump to meet during the upcoming G20 summit in Argentina, where the two sides can have an in-depth exchange of views on issues of common concern", Xi said. Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products, in a push to narrow the USA trade deficit and push back against what the US views as predatory Chinese tactics on the high technology industry. Retaliatory measures quickly followed.
"A trade war, instead of leading to any solution, will only end up hurting both sides and the global economy", he said.