World Bulletin / News Desk
Chinese authorities denied six Vietnamese fishing vessels safe harbor during a storm in disputed waters, state media reported Monday.
The six ships stopped five nautical miles from the Paracel archipelago’s Chinese-controlled Bombay Reef after encountering large waves and strong winds Aug. 12, reported the Vietnam News Agency.
Although Vietnam’s National Committee for Search and Rescue reportedly sought permission for the 259 fishermen to weather out the storm on the reef, which is also claimed by Hanoi, Chinese authorities said the atoll was unsuitable for shelter.
Bombay Reef is located within the disputed Paracel island group, which is claimed by Vietnam but has been under Chinese control since Beijing seized the archipelago in a 1974 naval battle with the now defunct South Vietnamese government.
The Paracel islands, along with the Spratly group to the south, are located within China’s so-called “nine dash line”, an area of ocean claimed by China that includes most of the South China Sea.
Although Beijing maintains that the area has historically been Chinese, its maritime claims overlap with waters claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
In addition to holding potentially lucrative fossil fuel blocks, the disputed zone is among the world’s busiest shipping lanes with trillions of dollars in goods transiting the area each year.
Tensions have been high in the South China Sea since a tribunal in The Hague ruled on July 12 that the nine dash line has no basis in international law following a lawsuit brought forth against Beijing by the Philippines.
The verdict, which China said it would ignore, stoked nationalist passions across the region.
Violence is also occasionally reported among fishermen, with Vietnam periodically accusing China of ramming its vessels.
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