BEIJING (Reuters) - Taking a dig at the U.S. arms embargo against China, the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Thursday all such U.S. embargoes were a relic of the Cold War and should be lifted, after the U.S. fully removed one against Vietnam.
The United States placed an arms embargo on China following the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. The European Union has a similar embargo.
"American public figures on many occasions have said that implementing arms embargoes are a manifestation of Cold War thinking," Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a monthly news conference.
"In fact, the U.S. still has unilateral arms embargoes against some countries. We think that the United States ought to abandon its Cold War thinking and put an end to such acts that do not accord with the times."
Yang declined to say directly if he was referring to the U.S. arms embargo against China.
The U.S. move with Vietnam, announced this week during President Barack Obama's visit to Hanoi, underscores their shared concern about China's growing military influence and growing assertiveness over claims in the South China Sea.
Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since diplomatic relations were restored in 1995, has made a strategic "rebalance" towards Asia a centrepiece of his foreign policy.
Vietnam, which borders China, is a key part of that strategy amid worries about Beijing's assertiveness and sovereignty claims to 80 percent of the South China Sea.
China sees U.S. support for rival South China Sea claimants Vietnam and the Philippines as interference and an attempt to establish hegemony in the region. Washington insists its priority is ensuring freedom of navigation and flight.
China's foreign ministry had given a muted reaction to the lifting of the arms embargo against Vietnam, saying it hoped the development in relations between the United States and Vietnam would be conducive to regional peace and stability.
Yang declined to comment beyond what the foreign ministry had already said.
China is Vietnam's biggest trade partner and source of imports. But bilateral trade with the United States has swelled ten-fold over the past two decades to about $45 billion (30.5 billion pounds). Vietnam is also now Southeast Asia's biggest exporter to America.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)