HANOI, Vietnam (AP) Vietnam and China traded accusations Tuesday over who was the aggressor in a clash that led to the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea, sharpening tensions already dangerously high after China moved an oil rig into the disputed waters.
Hanoi accused a Chinese vessel of ramming the wooden Vietnamese boat Monday then fleeing the scene. Beijing said the Vietnamese boat was trying to get close to the oil rig, rammed into one of its vessels, and then sank. The crew was rescued.
The clash occurred around 30 kilometers (18 miles) south-southwest of the large oil rig that China deployed on May 1 in waters both nations claim.
The rig deployment infuriated Hanoi and set off violent anti-China protests that further soured ties between the neighboring communist countries with close economic relations. Vietnam sent patrol ships to confront the rig, and China has deployed scores of vessels to protect it. The two sides have been involved in a tense standoff, occasionally colliding with each other.
China and Vietnam have long sparred over who owns what in the oil- and gas-rich waters. Incidents between fishing crews are quite common, but Monday’s incident was the first time a Vietnamese boat had been sunk, said Tran Van Linh, president of the Fisheries Association in the central port city of Danang.