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(Reuters) - China's angry response to a U.S.-led confrontation over the disputed South China Sea raises the specter of a fresh rift between Beijing and Washington just as wounds from a combative start to the year are healing.
China was furious after it was ambushed at Asia's top security forum by a discussion of sensitive territorial claims in the South China Sea, an area rich in energy and key for shipping.
Beijing had kept the South China Sea off the agenda of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) for a decade and a half. But last week in a meeting in Hanoi, 12 of the 27 members -- including some with no direct stake in the territorial disputes -- raised maritime issues.
An angry summary of the meeting was posted on the Foreign Ministry's website on Sunday evening, eschewing usually opaque diplomatic language to accuse U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of a barely disguised assault on Chinese interests.