Tensions between China and Vietnam have recently escalated after more than two weeks of conflict over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

From CNN:

China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its citizens from Vietnam and is sending ships to retrieve more of them after deadly anti-Chinese violence erupted last week over a territorial dispute between the two countries.

Five Chinese ships will travel to Vietnam to help with the evacuation, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Sunday, citing the Ministry of Transport. One of the ships has already set off from the southern island province of Hainan, the ministry said.

Sixteen critically injured Chinese citizens were flown out of Vietnam on Sunday morning on a chartered medical plane organized by Chinese authorities, Xinhua said.

Two Chinese citizens were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the violence that hit parts of Vietnam last week, according to the news agency. Some of the worst violence appeared to have taken place in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh.

Foreign factories, particularly those run by companies from China and Taiwan, were burned and looted by rioters outraged over Beijing’s decision to send an oil rig into waters of the South China Sea that both countries claim as sovereign territory.

Protests are usually not permitted in Vietnam, but were initially allowed until violence erupted and the situation grew out of control, according to CNN.  Authorities there are now trying to stop the protests.  Reuters reports that police in a few areas of Vietnam on Sunday were directing those gathering for rallies to disperse.

The conflict began earlier this month when China first parked the aforementioned oil rig in the disputed waters, triggering back and forth demands from both sides to retreat.

From the Associated Press via Yahoo News:

Occasionally colliding with or firing water cannons at each other, Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been shadow boxing in a sun-dazzled patch of the South China Sea since May 1, when Beijing parked a hulking, $1 billion deep sea oil rig, drawing a furious response from Vietnam.

Vietnam, ten times smaller than its northern neighbor and dependent on it economically, needs all the help it can get in the dispute. Its leaders believe international opinion is on their side. This week they invited foreign journalists to get a closer look at the standoff, the most serious escalation between the countries in years over their overlapping claims.

Vietnam is determined to defend what it regards as its sovereign territory against China, which insists that most of the South China Sea — including the Paracel Islands it took from U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1974 — belongs to it. But Hanoi lacks options in dealing with Beijing, as China uses it burgeoning economic and military might to press its claims in the seas.

China, in turn, maintains the area is part of its territorial waters.  The United States earlier spoke critically of China’s recent behavior.

From USA Today:

The U.S. government usually takes no stand on the region’s various sovereignty disputes, but Vice President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials told a top Chinese general visiting the USA last week that Beijing’s behavior in the maritime disputes was “dangerous and provocative” and must stop, a senior U.S. official told the Reuters news agency Thursday.

Meanwhile, Beijing thinks Washington should stay out of the conflict and shows no intention of withdrawing the rig. General Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, said Thursday in Washington that China would continue drilling for oil in what he called China’s territorial waters. Fang blamed Hanoi for the stand-off, criticized President Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia and said China cannot afford to “lose an inch” of territory, Reuters reported.

Video report below from CNN.

[Featured image: PBS NewsHour video ]