Vietnam says a Chinese vessel has rammed and sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea, near where Beijing has placed an oil rig.
Hanoi maritime officials say 10 fishermen had to be rescued after their boat was struck Monday by the Chinese fishing vessel.
China has not commented on the incident, which occurred about 30 kilometers from where Beijing has stationed the massive, state-run oil rig.
Vietnamese and Chinese boats have repeatedly clashed since China moved the rig on May 1 to an area within what Hanoi considers its exclusive economic zone.
Ha Le, the Deputy Head of the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department, told VOA's Vietnamese service that four fisheries officers were wounded Sunday after being hit by water cannons from Chinese vessels. He said almost all of Vietnam’s vessels have been damaged by attacks from China’s vessels.
"We are now fighting by peaceful means, by propagandizing against China’s illegal invasion. In addition, we try to avoid any intentional clashes with Chinese vessels to minimize damages and casualties on our end," said Le.
He added that in addition to its military ships, Beijing has sent numerous fishing vessels to the area to disrupt Vietnam’s laws enforcement ships. He stressed that Vietnam has only dispatched civilian ships, including vessels from its maritime police.
At the beginning of the dispute, the two sides exchanged water cannon fire and Hanoi accused Chinese vessels of ramming Vietnamese ships. Several Vietnamese were injured in the encounters.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Vietnam's national legislature has announced that the country is taking its final steps toward filing an international lawsuit against China for towing an oil rig into Vietnamese waters and attacking Vietnamese vessels.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung threatened legal action last week during a visit to the Philippines, which has a similar territorial dispute with China.
Manila challenged the legality of China's maritime claims at an international tribunal in The Hague. Beijing was angered by the move and has refused to participate in the case.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.