China Defends Ship’s Firing on Vietnamese Fishing Vessel

China defended its actions after Vietnam protested an incident in which a Chinese ship fired on one of its fishing vessels last week in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

“It is necessary and legitimate for China to take action against the Vietnamese fishing boat that entered the waters of China’s Paracel Islands for illegal fishing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing today. He said the boat was undamaged.

The confrontation took place March 20 near the islands, which Vietnam refers to as Hoang Sa, and resulted in a cabin fire on the Vietnamese vessel, Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said in a statement yesterday. The islands, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, are surrounded by productive fishing grounds and possible oil and gas reserves.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said it “resolutely protested” the incident and lodged a complaint with representatives from the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. Nghi called it “very serious.” Vietnam asked China to investigate and compensate the Vietnamese fishermen involved for their losses.

Chinese ships fired four shots into the water near Vietnamese fishing vessels in May 2011 near the Spratly Islands, the Tien Phong newspaper said that year, citing a report by border guards in the coastal province of Phu Yen.

“We urge the Vietnamese side to take effective measures to enhance the education and management of their own fishermen so as to stop such illegal activities,” Hong said at the briefing today.

— With assistance by Jason Folkmanis, and Michael Forsythe

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