In an atmosphere that they described as cordial and of mutual understanding, the head of the Vietnamese government, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, tackled an eminently economic agenda, but in which defence and security issues of common interest were not lacking.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel first entered Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) early last month where it began a weeks-long seismic survey, triggering a tense standoff between military and coastguard vessels from Vietnam and China. The USS Ronald Reagan is cruising in global waters in the South China Sea amid tensions in the disputed islands, shoals and reefs between China and other claimant-countries as Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
China's actions also demonstrate its disregard for the rights of countries to undertake economic activities in their EEZs under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, Ortagus said.
The Chinese vessel continued to survey Vietnam's EEZ on Saturday under escort from at least four ships and was around 102km southeast of Vietnam's Phu Quy island and 185km from the beaches of the southern city of Phan Thiet, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements.
In Beijing Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not directly address the USA accusations but said China opposed what he described as a US campaign aimed at division. Both he and Phuc urged all parties to refrain from the threat or use of force in settling disputes in accordance with worldwide law.
Mr Phuc presented a united front on their position on the South China Sea.
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On Friday, the two prime ministers reached consensus on developing an enhanced economic engagement strategy with the aim of Vietnam and Australia becoming top 10 trade partners of each other.
Morrison was in Hanoi on the first official visit by an Australian prime minister since the two nations in March past year upgraded their relationship to a "strategic partnership". "China is resolutely opposed to this", Geng told a daily news briefing.
In May, two Australian warships docked at Vietnam's strategic naval base at Cam Ranh Bay as the two navies stepped up cooperation.
Bilateral trade rose 19.4 percent past year to US$7.72 billion, Vietnamese customs data showed.
Australia is the largest foreign coal supplier to Vietnam, which is increasingly reliant on the fossil fuel for power generation to meet its fast-growing economy.
Morrison chose his words more carefully, calling for nations to respect one another's sovereignty but saying that his comments were not about "picking sides".