By David Tweed
Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) — Vietnam demanded compensation after Chinese boats allegedly rammed and robbed its fishing boats and beat some members of their crews, fanning tensions already inflamed by territorial disputes.
The three attacks occurred on Aug. 1, Aug. 14 and Aug. 15 in the South China Sea and violated Vietnam’s sovereignty, foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website yesterday.
“Vietnam demands China investigate and strictly deal with the behavior,” Binh said. He urged China “not to let such actions recur and give appropriate compensation for the Vietnamese fishermen.”
Tensions with China were aggravated in May when when China moored an oil exploration rig in disputed waters of Vietnam’s coast and protected it with a flotilla of vessels, prompting deadly anti-Chinese rioting. The rig was removed July 15.
China has been increasingly aggressive about asserting its claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, including territory claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The push is also fueling tensions with the U.S. as the Obama administration seeks to assert its own influence in the region.
Vietnam has lodged a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi over the incidents with the fishing boats, Binh said in the statement.
On Aug. 18, Nguyen Quoc Chinh, the head of fishermen’s group in An Hai commune of Quang Ngai coastal province, told Bloomberg that Chinese surveillance ships No. 46101 and 46002 rammed three Vietnamese boats near the Paracel Islands on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, injuring dozens of fishermen. The Chinese confiscated all fishing, telecommunications equipment and about 6 tons of tuna, Chinh said, estimating total damages of about 1.1 billion dong ($52,000).
Parts of the Paracel Islands are occupied by China and also claimed by Vietnam.
Last week Vietnam complained that the opening of a cruise ship route from Hainan Island in China to the Paracels violated its sovereignty.
Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.