• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:01am

Tensions between China and Vietnam escalate in row over boat sinking

Clash involving fishing boats in Paracel Islands leads to official protest from Hanoi, as Beijing says Vietnamese vessel breached security zone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 9:24am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 11:53am

Tensions between China and Vietnam continued to escalate yesterday as both nations traded accusations over the sinking of a Vietnamese vessel near a controversial oil rig in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

Vietnam's foreign ministry lodged a protest with the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, claiming a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese boat on Monday.

Watch: Chinese and Vietnamese vessels clash in disputed waters

But the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said the Vietnamese boat went into a restricted area near the oil rig in the Paracel Islands and rammed a Chinese vessel. The Vietnamese boat then sank.

The latest spat came after deadly anti-China protests swept across Vietnam, triggered by China's establishment of the oil rig earlier this month.

The heated exchanges indicated that the tensions would continue, though military conflict was unlikely, observers said.

"With nationalist sentiment running high, especially in Vietnam, it is expected that Hanoi will continue with actions that dismay Beijing," said Xu Liping , an expert on Southeast Asia with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

With nationalist sentiment running high, especially in Vietnam, it is expected that Hanoi will continue with actions that dismay Beijing

Hanoi said the Vietnamese fishing boat with 10 people on board was rammed on Monday by one of 40 Chinese fishing boats that surrounded it. The crew members were rescued by nearby Vietnamese vessels. The incident occurred 17 nautical miles south of the oil rig.

But Beijing hit back, saying the fishing vessel breached the security zone around the oil rig.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "The direct reason for the incident is that Vietnam has from time to time ignored China's representations, warnings and advice, continuing to disturb the normal operations of Chinese vessels and making dangerous moves on the sea."

The rig's operator, China Oilfield Services, said exploration at the rig would continue.

Tensions between China and its neighbours, particularly the Philippines, have increased in the South China Sea.

But ties between Beijing and Hanoi had been comparatively stable since October, when the two countries agreed to set up a working group to explore the disputed waters.

Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the latest incident could help Hanoi gain international support as Beijing had refused to move the oil rig away.

"China will inevitably need to respond," he said. "And this will help Vietnam gain credit for its public relations in the international arena."

Kang Lin , a researcher at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the incident could see the Southeast Asian nations becoming more united against China.

Click on the icons for more information

He noted that Hanoi said it was closely following an arbitration case brought by the Philippines in a separate maritime dispute with Beijing.

"China should have prepared for this trend," he said.

But Wu Shicun, the national institute president, said the latest spat would probably be settled through talks. "China does not want the tensions to escalate and it uses only civilian ships around the oil rig," he said.


More on this story

INFOGRAPHIC: Troubled waters
26 May 2014 - 11:02am

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Ant Lee
China - everything it does is disgusting.
Marcus Anthony, XYZ, Chaz Hen, Ant Lee, Charlie212 ... most of the China-Hater club are here!!
Just missing Aplucky1 and Pig Hater Wagner, and we can get the All-Star party started!!
….. and ramming it while still miles away ….. absolutely amazing.
can't wait for China to become completely isolated in the World. Only repressive losers like Russia and North Korea will be their friends....
Why was the Vietnamese fishing boats there in the first place? Were they there to demonstrate or to disperse out metallic fishing nets round Chinese oil rig to jeopardize it's operation like they have done before. Or these Vietnamese boats were sent there to carry out some planned sabotage actions by the Vietnamese government. If the Vietnamese have not instigated such aggressive actions, none of these clashes and lost of properties would have happened. Quite some people have been saying, that the Vietnamese are fighting a proxy war on behalf of the Japanese and the American.
This sort of brinksmanship will get out of hand, and both the Chinese people and the Vietnamese people will suffer for it.
China and Russia are the good ones here, western leaders are wolf in sheep's clothing.
Formerly ******
Are you for real or smoking crack?
Wealthier? All the hard earned money will be going to UK instead of staying in China and the whole population will be addicted to opium :-)
Did I read it right? China had 40 boats facing one small Vietnamese boat? Would that qualify as being a bully? Starting to understand better now why China keeps losing friends. Oh well, at least North Korea and Russia are still, for now at least, their great allies in Asia. Doubt if any other country wants much to do with China's "partners"? Russia may be a friend at present but will that be the case a few years from now? Throughout history these two could not stand nor trust each other.
"Supposed" to be reputable, but based on the articles I've read in the past 2 weeks, SCMP appears to have become a tabloid already. You are probably right on the western leisure readers target market rationale, as SCMP has turned away a majority professional readers who seek truth based on facts rather than one-sided groundless accusations.
Good job SCMP, I've had wasted enough time on your one-sided tabloid, time for me to turn to real news with multiple perspectives based on facts.
For the western tabloid readers here, I strongly recommend the Falun Gong Post, you will feel right at home :)



SCMP.com Account