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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, May 21, 2018

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Tension soars as Vietnam says China sank its fishing boat

Vietnam alleged that Chinese boats rammed and sank a wooden

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HANOI/BEIJING - Tension soared in the South China Sea Tuesday after Vietnam and China traded barbs and blamed each other for the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed waters where Beijing is said to have placed an oil rig.

Vietnam alleged that Chinese boats rammed and sank a wooden boat in traditional fishing waters off the coast of Da Nang Monday.

The state media reported that the boat was surrounded by 40 larger, steel Chinese vessels, one of which -- another fishing boat -- deliberately rammed itself into the Vietnamese boat.

"A Vietnamese boat from the central city of Da Nang was deliberately encircled by 40 fishing vessels from China before it was attacked by a Chinese ship," Head of Coastguard Nguyen Quang Dam was quoted as saying by Reuters.

China hit back and denied that its vessels slammed and sank the Vietnamese boat in the accident that caused no reported severe injuries. There were 10 people aboard the Vietnamese fishing boat who were rescued before the boat sank.

Official Xinhua news agency of China said the vessel capsized after "harassing and colliding with" a Chinese fishing boat.

"Crew aboard the boat were saved after their ship jostled a fishing boat from Dongfang City in southern China's Hainan province and overturned in the waters near China's Xisha Islands," Xinhua said.

"Chinese fishermen took resolute measures to prevent acts of sabotage and interference with Vietnam," Xinhua said on its microblog account.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Vietnam caused the incident with its "insistence on forcefully disrupting China's normal operations and its dangerous actions on the seas".

"We urge the Vietnamese side once again to immediately stop all disruptive and damaging (activites)," Qin said.

The incident is said to be the most serious in a standoff at sea in which Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have been circling each other, occasionally dueling with water cannons.

Vietnam has said that the $1-billion Chinese oil rig known as Haiyang Shiyou 891 has been stationed on its continental shelf and in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China disagrees and says it is operating within its waters.

The rig is owned by the state-run China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) Group and is located off the Paracel or Xisha islands.

China announced the cancellation of some flights to Vietnam as tensions between the two countries builds.

During the past few weeks, violent protests in Vietnam against the oil rig has resulted in the deaths of Chinese workers and looting of Chinese factories and businesses. 

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