Surging maritime tensions dominated a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders Sunday, with Vietnam calling on its regional neighbours for support in its worsening territorial dispute with China.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened just days after both Vietnam and the Philippines locked horns with China in contested waters, stoking international alarm.

In remarks to the summit, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged his Asean counterparts to protest at China’s controversial decision to move an oil drilling rig early this month into waters also claimed by Hanoi.

The latest incident has stoked bitter anti-China sentiment in Vietnam, with about 1,000 people joining one of the country’s largest-ever rallies against Beijing in Hanoi on Sunday.

The South China Sea is claimed in part by Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia as well as Taiwan.

Beijing prefers to negotiate on a bilateral basis, a policy that is rejected by rival claimants. — AFP

South China Sea is claimed in part by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia