A Vietnamese fishing boat from Da Nang is sank by Chinese vessel in May. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
Vietnam has lashed out at China for ramming and sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in an island chain over which Hanoi claims sovereignty, urging action against those responsible and demanding compensation for the affected fishermen.
“Vietnam demands that China respect international laws, not repeat similar actions and compensate the Vietnamese fishermen properly,” Le Hai Binh, a foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement on Wednesday. Vietnam on Monday also delivered a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi protesting the harassment of its fishermen.
On Sunday, according to local search and rescue forces in the central province of Quang Ngai, two Chinese vessels rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.
Vietnamese authorities accused the Chinese vessels of not only sinking the Vietnamese boat but also trying to prevent other boats from rescuing the fishermen. The five-man crew have since returned home.
Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen and their crews have fallen prey to China’s increasingly aggressive patrols around the disputed islands in the East Sea.
In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracel Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then US-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.
Vietnam’s giant northern neighbor has illegally occupied the islands ever since. But a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its ownership of the Paracels and continues to keep military bases and other facilities on the Spratlys, another island chain in the East Sea.
China routinely outlines the scope of its territorial claims through maps featuring a so-called nine-dash line — a demarcation that includes about 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer East Sea. But these maps have been emphatically rejected by international experts and fly in the face of competing claims by four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, which have overlapping claims in the Spratlys.
On Tuesday, an international arbitration court ruled that China has no historic title over large swaths of the East Sea and that Beijing has violated Manila’s sovereign rights with its actions.
Analysts expect that China, which has dismissed the court as a “farce”, will challenge the validity of the ruling by acting even more aggressively in the flashpoint waters.
“China would continue to do what it is doing now,” said Nguyen Vu Tung, the acting president of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, at a conference held on Tuesday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington D.C. “That would also include harsh treatment against fishermen in the region.”