01/05/2016, 00.00
VIETNAM - CHINA
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South China Sea: Vietnamese fishermen attacked by Chinese ships

by Paul N. Hung
In 2015 tens of thousands of fishermen have been victims of the "red empire". Beijing’s navy threaten and sink vessels. Hanoi slams an "inhuman and aggressive" attitude. The last incident occurred on January 1. Beijing pursues "imperialist" policy in spite of the protests of Vietnam and the Philippines.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - "In 2015, in a single year, tens of thousands of fishing families have been victim 'red empire' attacked by para-military vessels flying the flag of China. They have threatened and used violence against Vietnamese fishermen. They have an inhuman and aggressive attitude within the territorial waters of Vietnam", denounce associations and groups of fishermen to AsiaNews. They complain of ongoing violence and abuse at the hands of ships, boats and vessels registered to Beijing, which ply the waters of the South China Sea.

The Chinese government wants to control this disputed territory, - to the detriment of Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations in the region – for its exclusive economic and commercial use.

The last case dates back to the first day of 2016, when the Vietnamese vessel NGQ TS 98459, based in Quang Ngãi province was hit and sunk by a vessel flying the Chinese flag. The incident occurred near the CO Island, less than 40 miles (70 km) from the Vietnamese coast.

Mr. Huỳnh Thạch, captain and owner of the boat, said that "suddenly my vessel was struck and flanked by a ship flying China’s colors. The collision injured several fishermen who were swept into the sea. The captain added that the Chinese ship "hit our vessel a second time, to ensure that it would sink".

“After the impact – he concludes- two people aboard the Chinese vessel we have looked at us and pointed to our boat as it sank”.

Some local fishermen adding that today" people are afraid to sail the waters of the central provinces of Vietnam, "for fear of attacks from China. This is why we are appealing to the government in Hanoi, to protect our workers who operate across national borders”.

At the center of the dispute is control of the Fiery Corss Reef, in the Spratly Islands, where last July China built an artificial atoll; an area of ​​2.74 km2, the result of a project that has cost the coffers of Beijing at least $ 12 billion.

China also built on the atoll 9 port bridges, two helipads, 10 antennas for satellite communications and military radar stations. Finally, Beijing built an airstrip over 3 km long and 60 meters wide, which allows take-off and landing for strategic bombers over the Spratly, from which Beijing can control the airspace of the western Pacific.

This test landing has infuriated Vietnam and the Philippines who have both lodged formal complaints. However, the grievances of Hanoi and Manila have had no practical effect to China, which pursues its "imperialist" policy in the region.

The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas.

For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational".

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