The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it is puzzled by Washington's claims that the use of Vietnam's Cam Ranh airport by the Russian Air Force may fuel regional tensions, whereas the United States is stepping up its activity in the region.
"We are perplexed by statements made by U.S. officials who said that the activities of the Russian Air Force, including Russia's use of infrastructure on the Cam Ranh peninsula [in Vietnam] to refuel [its airplanes] could lead to an 'escalation of regional tensions'," the ministry said on its website on Friday.
"It is strange to hear such ideas from representatives of a state whose armed forces are permanently stationed in a number of countries of the Asia-Pacific region and which continues to raise the level of its military activity in the region," it said.
"As for the activities of the Russian Air Force and cooperation between the Russian Federation and its foreign partners, including Vietnam, in defense, they proceed in strict compliance with international requirements and bilateral agreements, are not directed against any country and are not posing any threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region," the Russian ministry said.
U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a press briefing on Wednesday that Washington had urged Vietnam to stop letting Russia refuel its military airplanes at the Cam Ranh base because of concerns it could raise tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
For its part, the Daily Mail newspaper reported, citing an unmanned official of the U.S. Department of State, that Washington had asked Vietnam to stop allowing Russia to use this former U.S. base to refuel nuclear-capable bombers.
According to the British newspaper, General Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, said that the Russian planes had conducted "provocative" flights, including around the U.S. Pacific Ocean territory of Guam, home to a major American air base. Brooks also said the planes that circled Guam were refueled by Russian tankers flying from the Cam Ranh base.
Washington's demands that the Vietnamese authorities stop letting Russia refuel its military airplanes at a base out of Cam Ranh Bay are "ridiculous", Konstantin Kosachyov, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, has said.
"Such demands are ridiculous from the point of view of their practical implementation. They act as a publicity stunt with an important psychological impact. The domestic and foreign audience should have the impression that this is how it should be done, that the U.S. allegedly has a right to tell other countries how to behave and whom to befriend," Kosachyov wrote in his online blog.
"The message is clear," he said.
"The U.S. is demanding that Vietnam stop cooperating with Russia because it [Russian-Vietnamese cooperation] is standing in the way of American interests," the Russian senator said.
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