Vietnam and China are blaming each other after a Vietnamese fishing boat sank in the South China Sea. The incident took place in disputed waters near where China placed an oil rig earlier this month.
Vietnamese officials say a Chinese fishing vessel hit the wooden Vietnamese boat on Monday. They said 10 fishermen had to be rescued from the water.
China's Xinhua news agency disputed the Vietnamese version of events. It said the Vietnamese boat "capsized after harassing and colliding with a Chinese fishing boat."
A Chinese Foreign Ministry official spoke to reporters in Beijing. In his words, "The direct cause of this incident is this: Vietnam has ignored China's repeated negotiations, warnings and dissuasion. (It has) insisted on forcefully disrupting China's normal operations and carried out dangerous actions on sea.”
Vietnamese and Chinese boats have repeatedly clashed since China deployed the oil rig on May 1st. Vietnam said the structure was placed in what the country considers its exclusive economic zone.
Ha Le is the deputy head of Vietnam’s Fisheries Surveillance Department. He told VOA's Vietnamese service that four fisheries officers were injured on Sunday after being struck by high pressurized water from Chinese boats.
At the beginning of the dispute, the two sides exchanged water cannon fire and Vietnam accused Chinese boats of striking Vietnamese ships. Several Vietnamese were injured in the clashes.
Separately, Vietnam said it is making final preparations to take legal action against China. A spokesman for Vietnam's national legislature said the country is bringing the case against China for moving an oil rig into Vietnamese waters and attacking Vietnamese vessels.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung threatened legal action last week during a visit to Manila. The Philippines has a similar territorial dispute with China.