Vietnam says China has attacked four of its ships near a controversial oil rig in the South China Sea, injuring three law enforcement officers.
The head of Vietnam's Fisheries Surveillance Department, Nguyen Ngoc Oai, told VOA's Vietnamese service that one of his surveillance vessels and three Vietnamese fishing boats were surrounded Wednesday by eight to 10 Chinese ships before being rammed and hit by water cannon fire.
"Those Chinese “fishing boats” are not fishing boats," he said. "They are designed for other purposes. "Those boats now are the main tool that the Chinese are using in their attempts to attack and to harass Vietnamese boats."
China has not yet responded to the Vietnamese allegations.
The two sides traded accusations after the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat Tuesday. Hanoi said the wooden vessel went down after being rammed by a Chinese fishing boat. Beijing said the boat "capsized after harassing and colliding with a Chinese fishing boat."
Oai says Vietnam has proof that China is at fault.
"Of course we have all the evidence. We have all the evidence of the acts of harassing and hitting that the Chinese have done. The Chinese have no evidence to support their claim," he said. "Furthermore, when you look at things at the scene, you will see that Chinese fishing boats are three or four times bigger than Vietnamese ones. There is no way that Vietnamese boats hit Chinese boats."
Vietnamese and Chinese boats have repeatedly clashed since May 1 when China moved the oil rig to an area within what Hanoi considers its exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Vietnam's national legislature announced Monday that Hanoi is taking its final steps toward filing an international lawsuit against China for towing the 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.
Earlier this year, Manila challenged the legality of China's maritime claims to 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 VOA's Vietnamese Service.