China-Vietnam naval confrontation escalates

The China-Vietnam row over the deployment of Chinese oil rig in the disputed South China Sea escalated on Tuesday as their naval vessels had a confrontation, leading to partial sinking of a Vietnamese ship.

Ships of the two navies were locked in two separate confrontations near a controversial South China Sea oil rig on Sunday; the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted a China National Radio’s military channel as saying it on Tuesday. In the first incident, a Chinese coastguard ship using water cannons blasted water at a Vietnamese fishing inspection vessel prompting it to flee, the radio report said.

Two other Chinese vessels blocked support units deployed by Vietnam’s coastguard to help the distressed ship. After that a Vietnamese coastguard vessel collided with a Chinese ship sustaining heavy damage, the Post report said. The Vietnamese ship suffered four leaks and was tilting, according to the China National Radio report. Pictures in Weibo, akin to Twitter in China, showed the boat partially submerged in water.

Already one Vietnamese fishing boat sank few days ago in another confrontation with Chinese vessels. Its crew members, however, were rescued. After a month-long confrontation leading to anti-China riots in Vietnam, China said last week that it was moving the rig to a new location as it completed first phase of drilling. The new location was not mentioned though. Four Chinese were killed and over 100 injured in the anti-China riots in Vietnam leading to the destruction of over 400 factories, mostly Chinese. China, which claims almost all of South China Sea belongs to it, has already evacuated over 7000 workers from Vietnam. Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei besides Taiwan have hotly contested Beijing’s claims.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei today termed the Chinese naval vessels surrounding the Vietnamese ships as ‘nonsense’. He accused Vietnam of interfering with drilling operations and ‘ramming against’ the Chinese rig ‘on many occasions’. China appealed to Vietnam to stop intruding into China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction, and immediately pull out the vessels and personnel. ‘However, Vietnam has ignored our representations and continue with its disruptive actions and ramming into the oil rig,’
he said. 
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