06/16/2015, 00.00
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Chinese navy attacks Hanoi vessels. Beijing completes bases in the South China Sea

Just days ahead of a bilateral China-Vietnam meeting, Beijing’s navy has attacked with water cannons and sequestered two Hanoi vessels in the Paracel Islands. Two fishermen were injured. The Chinese Foreign Minister warns that the work in the disputed islands "will be concluded in a few days."

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Beijing warships have once again attacked fishing boats from Vietnam near the Paracel Islands, an archipelago disputed by both nations. On June 7 last a Vietnamese boat was attacked with water cannons by Chinese boats.

Two fishermen were injured in the clash. Bui Tan Doan, who fractured a leg, told the Thanh Nien agency that the barrage of water cannons lasted for two hours, flooding the vessel which was in danger of sinking.

On June 10 there was a second episode, in which the captain Nguyen Van Phu and ten sailors were sequestered by the Beijing Navy of. Four Chinese boats surrounded the vessel, then a dozen military boarded the boat, destroying the walkie-talkie and the electronic components. According to a fisherman, "[the Chinese] forced us to carry all of our catch onto their ships, which weighed about 6 tons."

It is not the first time that the Chinese navy has attempted to discourage foreign fishermen in the disputed waters. Last April, similar attacks occurred at the expense of Filipino sailors. From time Hanoi and Manila contrast with increasing vigor "imperialism" of Beijing in the seas south and east. The Chinese government claims a large chunk of ocean, including the Spratly and Paracel islands disputed by also from Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The Paracel Islands were occupied entirely by the Chinese in 1974, when they ousted the reaming troops of southern Vietnam.

The attacks have raised tensions just ahead of a China-Vietnam Bilateral summit due to be held June 17 to 19. Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh and the foreign minister will fly to Beijing for the eighth meeting of the Commission for bilateral cooperation between the two countries. At the last summit in October 2014, the two governments had pledged to "control and manage their maritime differences ".

Meanwhile today, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the infrastructure that Beijing has been building for months in the disputed waters, will be concluded "in the coming days". According to Wang, the bases will be useful for research and maritime salvage, environmental protection and scientific studies. The Beijing minister reiterated that the actions of are legal, justified and within Chinese sovereignty in the area.

The states of Southeast Asia and the United States fear that the Chinese artificial islands could be used for military purposes and to impose Beijing’s control on navigation in the South China Sea, an area rich in oil and natural gas, with a volume of annual sales of more than 5 trillion dollars.

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