Vietnam naval chief assures fishermen protection

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Vietnamese naval commander Nguyen Van Hien has asked fishermen to sail out to sea as usual despite China's ban on fishing in the East Sea until the end of July.

He said the navy is handling things and will closely monitor the situation.

"We consistently oppose China's imposing the fishing ban on Vietnam's waters.

Vietnamese naval commander, Vice Admiral Nguyen Van Hien has asked local fishermen to go out to sea as usual, saying the navy will be patrolling Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf

"The specific means to make sure (our) fishermen are safe sailing out, I affirm, is that the navy is patrolling closely the waters that fall under Vietnam's economic privileges," Hien told press agencies on the sidelines of the National Assembly meeting on Tuesday.

He said intensified patrolling also aims to keep Vietnamese waters free of foreign boats.

Vietnamese and Chinese navies are both patrolling the area, so both sides will maintain observation, increase mutual contacts, raise trust and understanding and maintain friendship, Hien said.

Similar cooperation has eased tensions between Vietnam and Thailand including shooting over the waters off Vietnam's southwest coast, the commander said.

Hien said there are times Thailand's naval commander calls the Vietnamese navy to inform that their forces have detained Vietnamese fishermen and ask Vietnam to send boats to receive them.

Vietnamese and Chinese navies have set up a hotline for helping each other's fishermen when necessary and the Vietnamese navy has rescued Chinese fishermen several times, Hien said. "We hope the Chinese navy adopts similar behavior."

Though Vietnam has kept producing historical evidence about its sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelagoes, the country's fishermen have been arrested many times by Chinese patrols around the islands. Some were detained for a month and returned without the boats or fishing equipment that their livelihood depended on.

Hien said the Vietnamese navy does not shoot, punish or arrest Chinese boats when they violate Vietnam's sovereignty. "So we are suggesting China to do the same... I think China's behavior will change step by step."

After the cooperation with Chinese counterparts, Hien said Vietnam patrols themselves will suggest to the government further measures to protect Vietnam fishermen, if necessary.

Vietnam, with a coastal line stretching more than 3,260 kilometers and more than 3,000 islands, aims to benefit from and develop the marine economy so that it accounts for 53-55 percent of the GDP and 55-56 percent of the nation's export turnover by 2020, according to a government resolution issued on Tuesday.

The second Sea and Islands Week will be organized next week to raise people's awareness and understanding about the importance of sea and islands in protecting and developing the country.

Vietnam General Department of Sea and Islands and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will co-organize the annual event.

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