BEIJING/HANOI, May 8 (Reuters) - China on Thursday rejected Vietnamese claims it acted aggressively in the South China Sea and called for a peaceful end to a bitter row sparked by Beijing's parking of a giant oil rig in contested waters.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said no "clash" had taken place since the dispute erupted at the weekend. He was responding to Vietnam's assertions that Chinese vessels used water cannon and intentionally rammed eight of its ships, seriously damaging two, and wounding six sailors.
"I don't believe there was a clash. I think this was a difference of opinion on some disputes," Cheng told reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Beijing.
"The area in dispute is Chinese territory and of course we will maintain the country's core interests and defend our sovereignty. Vietnam should know this," Cheng said, adding that the two countries can resolve disputes through "peaceful talks".
"This dispute is not about the entire relationship between China and Vietnam. It's localised. It is controllable."
The two Communist nations have sought to put aside border disputes and memories of a brief border war in 1979. Vietnam is usually careful about comments against China, for which it relies on for political support and bilateral trade that surpassed $50 billion in 2013.
Still, Hanoi has strongly condemned the operation of the drilling rig, the first such action by Beijing in contested waters, and told the owners, China's state-run oil company CNOOC, to remove it.
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