Chinese ships were ‘invading’ Vietnamese waters: top defense official

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A Chinese fishing boat is held by Vietnamese coastguards for illegally entering Vietnam’s waters, as seen in a file photo by VnExpress.

The act was to back China’s nine-dash line which claims most of the South China Sea as its own, the official said.

Vietnam’s maritime security has seen “complicated” developments in the first few months this year with the penetration of many Chinese ships in Vietnamese waters, a top defense official said on Tuesday.

Many Chinese fishing vessels accompanied by special forces were casting nets within Vietnamese waters, only 40 sea miles from Ly Son Island off Vietnam’s south central coast, said Senior Lieutenant General Le Chiem, Deputy Minister of National Defense.

“There were times when several tens of fishing boats, under the support of Chinese law enforcement forces, declared that the waters was theirs and chased Vietnamese fishers away,” Chiem said at the ongoing summer session of the legislative National Assembly in Hanoi.

In April, Chinese fishing boats showed up illegally near Vietnamese coast thrice and sometimes they were only 30 nautical miles from Da Nang, which is considered Vietnam’s third most important city after Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.

Chiem described that as an act of “invading” Vietnamese waters and spreading propadanda in an attempt to support China’s nine-dash line policy, which violates Vietnam’s waters sovereignty and has been dismissed by the international community as illegal. The U-shaped line is a demarcation line that claims most of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including large swathes of Vietnam‘s Exclusive Economic Zone, as China’s territory.

“We were determined to persuade them to leave and chase them away from the area,” Chiem said. The official said Vietnamese fishers have also violated the territories of nearby countries, calling for efforts to raise their sovereignty awareness.

Vietnamese officials have been on edge about China’s recent moves in the South China Sea, which is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

The Chinese air force announced on May 18 that several of its bombers, including the long-range, nuclear strike capable H-6K, had carried out landing and taking off drills at an island airfield in the Paracel Islands. The drills came weeks after U.S. news network CNBC reported that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Vietnam has spoken against both moves, demanding that China respect its sovereignty and end both activities, which it said has “increased tensions” in the region.

By Bao Ha, Source: Vnexpress