Hanoi: Hundreds of demonstrators staged protests in Vietnam's capital demanding that China should stay out of their waters following a spat involving a Vietnamese oil-drilling research boat in the South China Sea.

The group of mostly young people demonstrated in front of the Chinese Embassy, many wearing Vietnamese flag T-shirts and carrying signs that read, "Stop Chinese invasion of Vietnam's islands." After about 30 minutes, they were dispersed by police. They then marched through the streets toward central Hanoi's landmark Hoan Kiem Lake, singing the national anthem and shouting anti-Chinese messages.

The protests follow a May 26 incident when a Chinese patrol boat allegedly destroyed the cable on a state-owned PetroVietnam boat conducting seismic research some 120 nautical miles off Vietnam's central coast.

Clashes are common in disputed areas of the sea claimed by both countries, but Hanoi has responded feverishly to this incident, saying it occurred well within the 200 nautical miles guaranteed to Vietnam as an exclusive economic zone by international law.

China has accused Vietnam of undermining its interests and rights within its waters.