A Chinese ship (left) fires a water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel on May 7, while a Chinese marine police ship (center) follows close behind. PHOTO COURTESY OF VIETNAM MARINE POLICE
After over a week of taking water cannon fire from an armada of Chinese vessels guarding a mobile oil rig, a Vietnamese ship began firing back on Monday.
This was the first time the Vietnamese ship fired water at the Chinese fleet, which has internationally rammed and repeatedly sprayed high-pressure water cannons at their Vietnamese counterparts since May 3.
The Chinese armada's aggressive actions have damaged Vietnamese ships and injured several crewmen, Vietnamese officials announced during an international press conference in Hanoi on May 7.
Nguyen Quang Dam, commander of the Vietnam Marine Police, said the ships tasked with stopping the Haiyang Shiyou-981 rig from drilling, Monday used loudspeakers to ask China to remove its rig and vacate Vietnamese waters.
China not only failed to respond to Vietnam’s demands, it further threatened Vietnamese ships with military boats and aircraft, Dam said.
A Chinese helicopter buzzed two Vietnamese law enforcement ships at a height of just 250-300 meters on Monday morning in an effort to intimidate them, said Dam.
Ha Le, deputy head of the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department, said that a Vietnamese ship returned water cannon fire on Monday only after being surrounded and sprayed by numerous Chinese vessels.
On May 1, China towed its deep-water rig to an area that Vietnam claims is well within its exclusive economic zone, near the Paracel Islands. The United States has described China’s move as “provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region”.
To guard its illegal drilling, China has sent as many as 80 vessels, including warships and military jets to the site.
Vietnam also dispatched a fleet of ships, including marine police vessels, to prevent the rig from drilling in its waters.
None of Vietnam's ships belong to its navy.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung lambasted China's actions, at a regional summit in Myanmar on Sunday, saying the rig's current location “seriously threatens” the international freedom of navigation and aviation.
ASEAN, or The Association of South East Asian Nations, in its joint statement at the summit, expressed “serious concern” over the situation and called for a peaceful resolution.
China has publicly claimed nearly the entire East Sea (aka the South China Sea) by releasing the now infamous "nine-dashed line" map which includes areas claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.