Vietnam demands China desist from East Sea violations

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Vietnam has demanded that China investigate and take strict measures against a Chinese ship for its "wrongful and inhumane" acts of firing on a Vietnamese fishing boat in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago.

Foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said Monday that on March 20 the fishing boat QNg 96382 TS of Quang Ngai Province was fishing normally in its traditional fishing grounds in Vietnam's Hoang Sa Archipelago when it was chased and shot at by a Chinese ship.

"This is an extremely serious issue, violating Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa Archipelago, threatening the lives and damaging properties of Vietnamese fishermen," Nghi said.

"This has seriously violated international laws and agreements on basic principles in solving sea issues between Vietnam and China, and is counter to the Declaration of Parties in the [South China] Sea (DOC)."

Nghi said his ministry's representative has met with representatives of the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and handed over a diplomatic note opposing the above acts of China.

The cabin roof of the Vietnamese fishing boat was guttend by the firing and  several pieces of equipment damaged.

Authorities have said they are investigating the case further. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected Vietnam's claim that the trawler had been damaged and urged it to teach its fishermen to stay out of its waters, Reuters reported Tueday.

"The response by the relevant Chinese body against the illegal Vietnamese fishing boat was appropriate and reasonable," Hong was quoted by the newswire as saying.

"We hope the Vietnamese side takes earnest steps to improve education for and management of fishermen to stop such illegal activities."  

A Vietnam's Tien Phong (Pioneer) news report Sunday quoted Captain Bui Van Phai, 25, a resident of Ly Son District, as saying that his boat had collided with a Chinese ship numbered 786 at around 10 a.m. of March 20, just as it was about to complete its fishing session that day.

The Chinese ship then gave chase for about 30 minutes and after it failed to get his boat to stop, opened fire. When the boat's cabin caught fire as a result, the Chinese ship fled the scene, Phai said.

The nine crew members on the boat managed to put out the flames on the cabin roof and prevent a potential explosion.

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Phai said repairs to the boat would make the fishing expedition a losing proposition because he had invested several hundred millions of dong in it.

He told the newspaper that it is common for Chinese patrolling ships to chase Vietnamese fishing boats off the Hoang Sa archipelago, but they have been "more aggressive" recently.

During a previous expedition, his boat had been chased by two other Chinese-flag bearing ships near the Da Loi (Discovery Reef) but managed to escape, he said.

On March 13, two other Vietnamese fishing boats were also illegally chased off the waters near Hoang Sa by two Chinese ships, said to be part of a Marine Surveillance fleet comprising three ships and a helicopter that were illegally patrolling in Vietnamese waters at that time.

Vietnam, China and several other Southeast Asian countries are embroiled in sovereignty disputes over parts of the East Sea, internationally known as South Chinese Sea.

China has been aggressive in staking its claims despite regional and international criticism of its actions, several of which have been deemed to have no legal standing, including the notorious nine-dash line it has recently used to stake claim over most of the territory, which also covers Vietnam's Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.

In a document sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other relevant agencies on March 20, the Vietnam Fisheries Association said it was opposed to Chinese actions in and around Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes, including sending a ship to the waters surrounding the latter, ostensibly for research on fishing resources.

Vietnam's National Border Committee on March 19 said Vietnam has enough "legal and historical evidence" to back its claim to sovereignty over both archipelagoes, and called on China not to impede legitimate fishing activities of Vietnamese fishermen in Vietnamese waters, a Vietnam News Agency report said.

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