Vietnam is accusing a Chinese vessel of attacking and sinking a fishing boat near the disputed Paracel Islands, days after the Chinese government insisted that territories in the South China Sea were not international waters, but belonged to China.
The Associated Press reports that the fishing vessel sank near the Paracel Islands, leaving the ten men aboard to float on lifeboats until help arrived. The ship’s captain, Dang Dung, says the ship was attacked in the middle of the night on September 29 by a Chinese ship. The Chinese vessel rammed itself against the fishing boat and men hopped aboard carrying knives, stealing anything of value– including the catch of the day– before leaving the ship to sink.
“Chinese actions against fishermen from Quang Ngai province have been more aggressive and brutal,” Phan Huy Hoang, president of central Quang Ngai province’s Fisheries Association, told the AP, noting that more than 20 such incidents against Vietnamese fishing vessels have occurred this year.
While there is no indication that the Chinese ship involved in the attack was government-owned, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has used the occasion to assert that the Chinese government will attack and force to flee any ship that enters international waters in the South China Sea that Beijing considers part of China. “Chinese authorities have the rights to take law enforcement measures in accordance with the law on boats that have illegally entered [the South China Sea],” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has issued a response condemning China’s claims to the Vietnamese territory. Spokesperson Le Hai Binh issued a statement “rejecting” the Sansha province of China, which is the name used by Beijing for the international waters including the Spratly and Paracel Islands, both of which are claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, respectively. “Under any form or for whatever purpose, China’s activities in [Sansha] have no legal foundation and do not change the fact that Hoang Sa belongs to Vietnam,” he said.