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Vietnam, China Spar Over Vessel-ramming Near Oil Rig

FILE - A Chinese Coast Guard vessel, with the disputed oil rig in the background, is seen in the South China Sea June 13, 2014.

FILE - A Chinese Coast Guard vessel, with the disputed oil rig in the background, is seen in the South China Sea June 13, 2014.

Vietnam and China on Tuesday traded accusations that each had rammed a vessel owned by the other near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters.

The Deputy Head of the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department, Ha Le, told VOA Tuesday that two Vietnamese sailors were injured and one Fisheries Surveillance ship was severely damaged when seven Chinese ships chased the Vietnamese vessel before ramming it Monday.

“We don’t accept the so-called ‘security cordon’ around the oil rig as stated by China. What they said was not true. Based on the evidence we have recorded, Chinese vessels purposefully blocked and rammed our ships, causing damage to our ships," said Ha Le.

He also stressed that Vietnamese ships have never attacked China’s vessels and protested against China’s so-called ‘security barrier’ within Vietnamese waters.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a Tuesday news briefing that the Vietnamese vessel breached China’s security barrier and rammed a Chinese boat.

New map stirs controversy

Meanwhile, China’s unveiling of a new map of the South China Sea is causing concern among some Vietnamese.

China’s Hunan Map Publishing House this week unveiled a new vertical map of China that includes two large clusters of islands, the Paracels and the Spratlys, and Vietnam’s economic zone.

Chinese spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the new map was nothing to be concerned about.

"Map publishers in some of China's relevant provinces compiled and published a new and vertical version of the map of China. I believe the goal of relevant map publishers compiling and publishing various versions of the map of China is to serve the Chinese public. As for their intentions, I don't think it is necessary to read too much into it. The Chinese government's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and extremely clear,"

But prominent Vietnamese historian Nguyen Nha told VOA's Vietnamese service that the move clearly shows China’s expansion goals and paves the way for Beijing to engulf the entire South China Sea. He said the action could be even more inflammatory than China’s use of the oil rig.

“All of China’s acts aim to implement their sovereignty claims in reality which account for 80 percent of the South China Sea. This is a form of invasion of Vietnam’s territory defined by U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said Nguyen Nha.

China is involved in overlapping maritime territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Vietnamese Service

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