05/31/2014, 00.00
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South China Sea: Chinese navy assaults Vietnamese marine surveillance vessels and trawlers

by Paul N. Hung
In addition to, and warships , China also uses fighter jets that violate Vietnamese airspace. At least 30 Vietnamese patrol boats hit this week. A fishing boat was sunk . Another was boarded by Chinese military boarding

Hanoi ( AsiaNews) - The escalation of tension in the South China Sea shows no sign of abating. Yesterday 100 Chinese patrol boats, four ships and about 40 military vessels (at least in appearance) surrounded Vietnamese coastguard and fishing vessels near an oil rig that China has placed in Vietnamese territorial waters. In addition, some Chinese fighter jets violated Vietnamese airspace to defend the platform .

Hanoi media claim that Chinese naval vessels had "pointed their guns" on the Vietnamese marine surveillance ships. Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng said that so far at least 30 patrol boats were hit and damaged by Chinese military vessels, described as "very aggressive ."

On 27 May, a Vietnamese trawler was rammed and sunk after being surrounded by dozens of navy ships and Chinese "fishing" vessels; 10 fishermen had to jump overboard and were rescued by other ships in the vicinity . In recent days, in an act of piracy at least 20 Chinese marines boarded a small Vietnamese boat at 9pm close to one of the Paracel Islands (Phú Lâm). The captain described the episode as a "night of terror" : Chinese sailors forced their way into his cabin and brutally beat him. The Chinese marines also attacked the other crew who were sleeping . The fisherman Tân S. Pham reports: "They beat me with sticks and a gun. Lê Anh [another sailor ] was shot in the chest and is still coughing and spitting up blood even now".

For years, China has been claiming sovereignty over the small Spratly and Paracel islands contested by various Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines. After many promises to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner and through dialogue , in recent years , Beijing has launched an aggressive policy and a "fait accompli" by installing oil platforms, stationing troops and defending the area with warships. Scientists speculate that under the seabed there are enormous energy reserves. The area is also important for the protection of maritime shipping lanes.

The Shangri -La Forum between the United States and representatives of the governments of South- East Asia is currently underway in Singapore. U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel has accused China of wanting to "destabilize" the South China Sea and has ensured that the United States "will not look the other way".

China, for its part, has accused the U.S. of  "making threats".


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