Chinese People's Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Gen. Fang Fenghui, visiting Washington, said China could not "afford to lose an inch" of territory in the sea, contested by China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. He also blamed Hanoi for inciting violence and warned the United States that its efforts to focus on Asia were fueling hostilities.
Fang added that some Asian nations are using President Barack Obama's recent visit and re-commitment to Asia as an opportunity to foment trouble.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden responded to Fang's comments in a statement: "No nation should take provocative steps to advance claims over disputed areas in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region."
Nationalist sentiment in Vietnam, over China's decision to move an oil rig into water west of the disputed parcel Islands in the South China Sea, reached a boiling point Thursday, as at least 15 foreign-owned manufacturing facilities were set afire in Binh Duong province.
A Chinese worker died in an attack on a Taiwanese-owned steel mill Wednesday, and 150 people were injured as protesters attacked a Taiwanese-owned mill. Protesters appear to target any factory with Chinese characters on their signage, whether owned by mainland Chinese companies or Taiwanese business interests.
It was reported that many Chinese workers have left their jobs to cross into neighboring Cambodia.
China has made the controversial move of claiming a U-shaped section of the South China Sea, including some areas claimed by other countries.