Vietnam accused China of continuing to ram its boats in disputed waters of the South China Sea and aired video it said showed a Chinese vessel plowing into one of its fishing boats before it sank on May 26.
Chinese ships have damaged 24 Vietnamese boats since Vietnam vessels began challenging China’s installation of an oil rig in waters near the Paracel Islands on May 2, and 12 Vietnamese fisheries officers have been hurt, officials said. In one of the most recent incidents, a Vietnamese Coast Guard boat suffered four holes after being hit on June 1, Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of Vietnam’s Coast Guard, said at a press conference yesterday in Hanoi.
Chinese ships are on the defensive in the area and it is Vietnamese vessels that are attacking, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing yesterday. He urged Vietnam to end its provocations.
The latest accusations suggest there is no sign of an end to the confrontation over the rig, which China has said will remain in place until early August. Under President Xi Jinping, China has been flexing its economic and military muscle to assert its claims to surrounding waters that may be rich in mineral and energy deposits.
China calls much of the South China Sea its own under its “nine dash-line” map, first published in 1947, which extends hundreds of miles south from China’s Hainan Island to equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo. Chinese and Japanese coast guard boats also regularly tail each other off disputed islands in the East China Sea. China insists there is no disputing its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and nearby waters.
China placing the oil rig set off anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam that left at least three dead and prompted China to evacuate thousands of its citizens from the country.
The Chinese government has said the Vietnamese fishing boat that sank last week capsized after it rammed a Chinese fishing boat, after having entered a “precautionary area” around the oil rig located near islands claimed by both Vietnam and China. The 10 fisherman on board were rescued by other Vietnamese boats after the sinking.
Vietnamese officials released the video they say shows a much larger Chinese ship ramming the Vietnamese fishing boat, the DNa 90152, before the sinking.
The Philippines, embroiled in its own dispute with China over a stretch of the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, has found evidence that more Chinese ships have moved into the area and may be involved in land reclamation, President Benigno Aquino said yesterday in Manila. Land reclamation underway in an area around the Johnson South Reef is ongoing, he said.
The Group of Seven nations meeting in Brussels yesterday expressed “deep concern” over the the situation in the South China Sea.
“We oppose any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force,” the G-7 said in a communique released on June 4 at the start of the meeting. “We call on all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law.”
The G-7 weighed in after a United Nations arbitration tribunal this week gave China six months to respond to a complaint by the Philippines by justifying its claims to much of the South China Sea. That suit was prompted by a separate dispute between the two countries over waters in and around the Spratly islands.
Vietnam is preparing similar legal action against China, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in a May 30 interview.
China won’t accept any arbitration of its disputes with neighbors and insists on bilateral talks to settle the issues.
“China’s position that it will not accept or participate in the tribunal case involving the Philippines hasn’t changed,” Hong Lei said in Beijing on June 4 in response to the arbitration panel’s request.