China damages 24 patrol, 12 fishing vessels near illegal oil rig

By Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds an international press conference in Hanoi June 5. Photo: Ngoc Thang
China has rammed and damaged 24 Vietnamese coast guard and fisheries surveillance force vessels since it illegally positioned a giant oil rig in Vietnam’s territorial waters on May 2, a senior official told a press briefing Thursday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the international press conference in Hanoi to continue to demand an immediate end to China's incursion into Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.
Ngo Ngoc Thu, Vice Commander and Chief of Staff of the Vietnam Coast Guard said 19 fisheries surveillance ships and five coast guard vessels were destroyed either by being rammed or blasted with high-powered water cannons fired by Chinese vessels positioned around the rig.
According to the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department, 12 fisheries surveillance officers were injured during the attacks on the 19 ships.
Thu noted that apart from deploying coast guard ships, patrol boats and logistics ships around the rig, China has also dispatched a large number of armored fishing vessels, along with a fleet of assorted warships and aircraft.
“Chinese ships have grouped together and formed three circles around the rig, enabling them to encircle and ram any Vietnamese vessel attempting an approach,” Thu said.
Along with using high-power water cannons to damage Vietnamese ships and equipment on board, Chinese ships have also used loudspeakers and powerful lights, affecting the health of the Vietnamese coast guard and fisheries surveillance officers dispatched to the area, stated Thu.
According to Tran Duy Hai, Deputy Head of the National Border Committee, since the beginning of May, Vietnam has engaged in more than 30 dialogues with China. 
But China has ignored Vietnam’s request to remove the rig.
More dangerously, China expanded the operation by moving the rig it to a new location inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone accompanied by additional ships, Hai said.
Ha Le, deputy head of the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department said 12 Vietnamese fishing boats have been attacked by Chinese forces while fishing in Vietnamese waters since May 7.
In the press conference, Vietnamese officials aired a video clip featuring a Chinese ship ramming and damaging a Vietnam Coast Guard vessel on June 1.

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