China defends the action of Chinese vessel firing upon a Vietnam trawler off Paracel islands

Long-running tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea have again flared up with the Vietnam government on Tuesday accusing a Chinese vessel of firing upon a fishing boat and setting it on fire.

Vietnam described the action as “very serious” and lodged a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. The boat was in the waters off the Paracel islands, which are claimed by both countries.

Hanoi has called on China to “punish those responsible and pay reparations to the fishermen”, the Associated Press quoted a government statement as saying.

Any such move, however, remains unlikely, judging by China’s response on Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry here said it was “necessary and legitimate” for China to take action, but denied that the fishing boat had been damaged or set on fire.

“The Xisha islands are China’s inherent territory,” spokesperson Hong Lei said. “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha islands. It is necessary and legitimate for China to take action against the Vietnam fishing boat that entered waters of China’s Xisha islands for illegal fishing.”

“According to verification by the relevant party,” he added, “no damage has been caused to the fishing boat at that time”. Mr. Hong said China urged Vietnam “to enhance management” of their fishermen.

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