Vietnam has released dramatic footage showing a large Chinese ship chasing and ramming one of its fishing boats that then sank near an oil rig in contested waters in the South China Sea.
The communist neighbours have traded accusations over the May 26 sinking incident, with Hanoi decrying an “inhuman act” by China, which blamed intrusion by the Vietnamese vessel.
The footage, shot from a nearby Vietnamese vessel, show a much larger Chinese ship racing after a small wooden Vietnamese fishing boat, ramming into it and causing it to tip over and sink.
Vietnamese officials have said the 10 fishermen on board were rescued by nearby vessels after the incident, which occurred about 12 nautical miles southwest of the oil rig.
Vietnam said on Thursday that Chinese vessels guarding the oil rig had injured 12 people – including the 10 on the sunken boat – and damaged 24 Vietnamese law enforcement vessels since the stand-off began in early May.
An additional 12 fishing vessels have been damaged, according to Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department deputy head Ha Le. “They were prevented from fishing, threatened by Chinese vessels, had their equipment destroyed and the crews were brutally treated,” he said.
Relations between Vietnam and China have plummeted over the oil rig’s presence, which has worsened an increasingly heated dispute over territorial claims in the area. The oil rig is positioned in the vicinity of the contested Paracel Islands, which are known as Hoang Sa in Vietnam and called Xisha in Beijing.
“Every day, China has between 30 and 137 boats around the oil rig, including six warships,” Vietnam Coast Guard deputy commander Ngo Ngoc Thu said. “Vietnamese ships are being restrained … and trying to avoid China’s ramming.”
He added that Vietnam had not been using water cannon against Chinese boats.
Tensions over the oil rig sparked violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month. Beijing says four Chinese citizens died in the unrest, while Vietnam says three Chinese died.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has said China’s placement of the rig in the contested area “seriously threatened peace”.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and has become increasingly assertive in staking those claims. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have competing claims to parts of the sea.