China’s territorial dispute with Vietnam over the Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracels, in the South China Sea has escalated with claims that a Chinese vessel hit and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat Monday, media reports said Tuesday.
Vietnam News Agency said about 40 Chinese vessels surrounded a group of Vietnamese fishing boats Monday afternoon about 17 nautical miles southwest of a Chinese deepwater oil rig.
One of the Chinese boats then rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat with 10 crew on board. The fishermen were rescued by the other Vietnamese boats and there were no injuries, it said.
But China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua said on its microblog that a Vietnamese fishing boat capsized as it rammed a Chinese fishing boat at around 5pm on May 26, adding that “personnel from the Vietnamese boat were swiftly rescued.”
The incident comes after Tran Duy Hai, deputy head of Vietnam’s National Border Committee, said Friday that “historical and legal evidence shows that Vietnam has absolute sovereignty in the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang dismissed the claim as ridiculous.
“After seeing that the press conference held by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry last Friday on the subject, I felt it was extremely ridiculous,” he said Monday.
“The Paracels are the indisputable territory of the Chinese people,” Qin said, adding that the islands were discovered by Chinese explorers and became part of Chinese territory in the Han dynasty.
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