Vietnam claims a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat in the latest South China Sea clash

HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty ImagesThis picture taken on May 14, 2014 shows a Chinese coast guard vessel (C) followed by a Vietnamese coast guard ship near the area of China’s oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
  • Vietnam claims a Chinese ship rammed and sank one of its fishing boats in the South China Sea Wednesday.
  • China claims that when the Chinese vessel arrived on the scene, the Vietnamese ship was already sinking.
  • China and Vietnam have clashed repeatedly near the disputed Paracels, territory China seized from Vietnam by force, and China has reportedly sunk several Vietnamese ships over the years.

Vietnam claims that a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat near the disputed Parcel Islands in the South China Sea, while Beijing tells an entirely different story.

The Vietnamese ship was struck by a Chinese vessel marked 44101 near Discovery Reef on Wednesday, Vietnam’s official Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Thursday, citing Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue told VN Express, another Vietnamese outlet the same thing.

The five crew members reportedly clung to the bow of the sinking fishing boat until they were rescued roughly two hours later by another Vietnamese fishing boat.

An Vietnamese official speaking on background confirmed the report to the Associated Press.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman argued that China detected a distress signal from a Vietnamese fishing vessel and dispatched a ship to assist, explaining that upon arrival, the Chinese ship discovered a vessel that was already sinking, the Chinese-language version of the Global Times reported.

Rather than provide assistance, the Chinese vessel reportedly contacted the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Chinese media reports that the five fishermen were rescued, without providing any details on who rescued them.

None of the crew were injured in the incident.

The Paracels are a sore spot in bilateral ties between China and Vietnam. China seized these territories by force in the 1970s and has since constructed military outposts on a number of the features in this area.

In recent years, there have been several confrontations.

For example, Vietnam claimed in 2014 Chinese vessels encircled a Vietnamese fishing boat before ramming and sinking it. China argued that the Vietnamese ship was harassing the Chinese vessels. A similar incident occurred two years later.

China has clashed with other countries as well, including the US. Last September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy vessel during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratlys, forcing the US warship off course and risking a collision.

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