HANOI, Vietnam — US Vice President, Kamala Harris, hitting out at China for the second time in the last two days, called upon the international community to challenge Beijing’s “bullying” and excessive maritime claims in Indo-Pacific.

“We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (a reference to the UN treaty that establishes all maritime activities around the world) and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims,” said Harris in a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Harris is on a two-day visit to Vietnam to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations.

Earlier on Aug. 24, Kamala also met with Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob at Istana.

Harris’ visit to the South Asian nation comes at a crucial time, as during her visit to Singapore. She hit out at Beijing as it claims a more significant part of the South China Sea. Harris had stressed that the US would stand by its South Asian allies to protect their rights.

Harris was welcomed by Vietnam’s vice president Vo Thi Anh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi.

The comment comes amid growing tensions in Indo-Pacific with China’s increasing military activities in the South China Sea.

On Aug. 24, too, Harris ripped into China, saying Beijing continues to “coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.”

“The 2016 arbitral tribunal decision has rejected these unlawful claims. And Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations,” said Harris.

Reacting sharply to Harris’ remarks, Chinese state media accused the US vice president of seeking to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations with comments in Singapore that Beijing used coercion and intimidation to back its unlawful the South China Sea claims.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

China has been increasing its maritime activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly responding to Beijing’s concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.

The US Navy, in recent months, has conducted regular “freedom of navigation” operations through the disputed waters.

China’s “nine-dash line” territorial claim covers 90 percent of the 3.5-million square kilometers of the South China Sea, despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruling against the claim in 2016.

The US has become Vietnam’s biggest buyer. The Southeast Asian nation has emerged as the 10th largest trade partner of the US, Vietnam Government Portal said.

Trade between Vietnam and the US hit a record of $90.8 billion last year. Both countries are working hard to raise the figure to $100 billion this year, as per the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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