China and Vietnam Row Over South China Sea Clash

Amid continuing tensions in the South China Sea, Vietnam is accusing China of attacking fishermen in the disputed region. Reuters reports:

A statement posted on the Vietnamese government’s website said the trawler was chased away and came under attack from Chinese ships near the Paracel islands on March 20, calling the incident a breach of international maritime law.

Vietnam’s state-controlled newspapers showed photographs on Tuesday of what they said were the charred remains of the ship’s cabin.

“This is a very serious case, violating Vietnam’s sovereignty,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement posted late on Monday.

“Vietnam resolutely opposes this and demands China investigates and strictly deals with the above inhumane wrongdoing and compensates for the damages carried by Vietnamese fishermen.”

While Hanoi demanded China punish those responsible, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said China has taken unspecified but “legitimate and reasonable” actions against Vietnamese boats fishing illegally in Chinese waters. Meanwhile, Chinese state media report China is urging Vietnam to stop illegal fishing in Xisha Island. From Xinhua:

The Xisha Islands are Chinese territory, said Hong, adding that China’s sovereignty over the islands is indisputable.

China’s actions toward the Vietnamese fishing boat were necessary and justified, as the boat had operated illegally in waters off China’s Xisha Islands, according to the spokesman.

He said that checks with relevant authorities had verified that China’s action cause no damage to the Vietnamese boat.

China urges Vietnam to take effective measures to strengthen education and management of its fishermen, and stop them from illegal activities, said.