Chinese navy fires at Vietnamese fishing ship, injuring 5
Saturday July 21, 8:02 AM
(Kyodo) _ A ship belonging to the Chinese navy fired at a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier this month near the disputed Spratly Islands, injuring five Vietnamese crewmen, according to Vietnamese government officials.
Neither government has made an announcement on the July 9 clash. However, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem virtually acknowledged the shooting, telling Kyodo News that the "details of the incident are being investigated."
The Chinese Embassy in Hanoi said it has no information on the shooting.
Details of the circumstances at the time of the clash are sketchy. However, there is a strong possibility that the fishing vessel, from Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, was fired at for operating within the boundary of waters claimed by Beijing.
The Spratly Islands, a cluster of rocks and reefs believed rich in oil and natural gas, are claimed in full or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near one of the Spratly Island reefs, in which more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died.
Beijing and Hanoi normalized relations in 1991 but tensions over the islands remain.
A senior Vietnamese official said his country is "resolving the issue through diplomatic channels, based on agreements with China, to keep the incident under wraps."
In April, Beijing accused Hanoi of infringing on China's territory by agreeing with energy giant BP on a natural gas field and pipeline project in the South China Sea. In response, Vietnam asserted that the islands are historically Vietnamese territory.