A TENSE dispute between China and much of south-east Asia is now threatening to drag in the Australian Government.
The spat between China and Vietnam centres mostly on a Chinese state-owned firm dispatching a giant drilling rig bound for an area between the Vietnamese coastline and disputed islands.
On Monday, the New York Times reported up to 15 Chinese ships sprayed a Vietnamese vessel with water cannons.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on the weekend, Vietnam led a call for support to confront China.
Both Vietnam and China are now understood to be in talks.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs put out a statement on Wednesday saying "we share the serious concerns...over recent developments which have served to raise tensions in the region".
"Australia urges parties to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions that could escalate the situation and take steps to ease tensions".
Australia had no position on competing claims by the two countries.