Skip to main content

Vietnamese boat sinks after collision with Chinese vessel in disputed waters

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Xinhua: Vietnamese fishing boat sank after colliding with Chinese vessel off Paracel Islands
  • Beijing has been drilling for oil near the island chain in the South China Sea both nations claim
  • Vietnamese coast guard officials say the fishing boat was rammed amid rising tensions
  • All 10 crew aboard the fishing boat were rescued by nearby vessels

(CNN) -- A Vietnamese fishing boat has sunk after colliding with a Chinese vessel near an island chain in the South China Sea at the center of a territorial dispute between the two Communist neighbors.

According to China's state-run Xinhua news agency, the Vietnamese vessel had been "harassing" a Chinese fishing boat at 5 p.m. local time on Monday in waters near the Paracel Islands, a largely uninhabited archipelago also known by the Chinese as the Xisha Islands.

However, Luu Tien Thang, a senior officer aboard a Vietnamese coast guard boat patrolling waters nearby, told CNN Tuesday the Vietnamese vessel reported that it had actually been rammed by the Chinese ship during a distress call.

While the Chinese vessel was purportedly a fishing boat, Luu said there were "usually Chinese military boats in the area with the fishing fleet."

Other Vietnamese fishing boats and coast guard ships picked up the 10 crew members aboard the Vietnamese vessel, Luu added.

Chinese ships reach Vietnam to extract thousands of citizens

Location of HD-981 rig  Location of HD-981 rig
Location of HD-981 rigLocation of HD-981 rig
China evacuates thousands from Vietnam
Anti-China riots in Vietnam

'Forcefully intruded'

Relations between China and Vietnam have soured in recent weeks after a state-owned Chinese oil company began drilling for oil some 17 nautical miles off the Paracels. Vietnamese officials say Chinese military and civilian ships have been harassing their vessels around the islands -- which are controlled by Beijing but claimed by Hanoi -- even accusing the Chinese of repeatedly ramming into them and shooting water cannon.

READ: How an oil rig sparked anti-China riots in Vietnam

China maintains that its current drilling activities are legitimate and blames the Vietnamese for provoking the conflict.

At a daily press briefing in Beijing Tuesday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang said the Vietnamese vessel had "forcefully intruded" into the area where its drilling rig was operating, then ran into the left side of a Chinese fishing boat before capsizing.

"I want to stress that the direct cause for this incident is that the Vietnamese side ... insisted on disturbing the normal operation by the Chinese side and took dangerous action on the sea," said Qin. "We once again urge the Vietnamese side to stop immediately all kinds of disruptive and damaging activities."

He said there is "no dispute concerning the sovereignty of the Xisha islands," and that they are Chinese territory.

"We hope the Vietnamese side will stop its disruptive actions and bear in mind the overall interests of the stability of the region. Only by doing so can the Vietnamese side uphold the overall interests of bilateral relationship," Qin added.

The spat recently spilled into violent anti-Chinese protests across Vietnam two weeks ago, prompting Beijing to evacuate thousands of its nationals. Recent video aired by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV showed some limping or being carried down the stairs of a medical flight arriving in the city of Chengdu, many with limbs bandaged. Two Chinese nationals were killed in earlier clashes, authorities said.

Vietnam characterized the protests as "spontaneous acts" by individuals who were exploiting the situation to "cause social disorder."

READ: What's behind China's territorial spats?

CNN's Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT