HANOI, VIETNAM - Vietnam said a Chinese vessel sank one of its fishing boats near contested waters in the South China Sea, the latest incident to stoke maritime tensions between the two neighbors.
The Chinese vessel slammed into the side of the Vietnamese ship on September 29 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both countries, officials in Quang Ngai province said Thursday.
Armed men from the Chinese vessel then boarded the Vietnamese boat and stole navigation devices, fishing equipment and other tools before fleeing, according to one of 10 fishermen on the Vietnamese boat.
The boat began to take on water and sank several hours later, forcing the fishermen to put on life jackets and wait for a rescue.
Plan to file protest
Vietnam authorities plan to file an official protest with China over the incident, according to The Associated Press, which quoted officials who said this is the 20th time this year that Chinese vessels have attacked Vietnamese fishing boats.
Chinese officials have dismissed many such past incidents, saying the Vietnamese boats were responsible for harassing the Chinese ships. Beijing has not commented on the latest allegation.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims with China in the South China Sea, which is rich in natural resources, is a main trade route, and holds important symbolic and national value.
The territorial disputes have worsened in recent years, and there have been frequent small-scale clashes, raising fears of a miscalculation or other escalation.