Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told Xinhua Tuesday that if Vietnam wants to prevent another “maritime accident” like the sinking of a ship near a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, it should “stop violating Chinese companies’ regular operations.”
The direct comments follow a dispute surrounding an oil rig China placed in waters that Vietnam claims as its own and leave no room for interpretation on the part of the Chinese government that they believe those waters belong to them.
Qin claimed the Vietnamese fishing boat in question “forcefully intruded into the area of a Chinese company’s oil rig and capsized” after “harassing and colliding with a Chinese fishing boat in the waters.” He nonetheless designates the sinking an “accident” and not the product of an attack. Qin also accused the Vietnamese boat of “bringing risk to the waters.”
Vietnam is claiming that the fishing boat was initially surrounded by 40 Chinese vessels, one of which rammed itself into the fishing boat, causing it to sink. According to the BBC, Beijing News is reporting the opposite: that the Vietnamese vessel sank while trying to ram into the large oil rig parked in the area.
The statement follows a claims earlier this week by the Chinese government that the Paracel Islands, located near the oil rig in question, belong to China, and any claim otherwise is “ridiculous.” The Paracels, known as the Xisha Islands in China, are territory over which China has “indisputable sovereignty,” Qin later said in a statement to Xinhua.
The dispute between Vietnam and China has expanded into a regional one, as the Philippines and Japan also have territorial disputes with the regional power. Japan had promised to dispatch surveillance vessels to the South China Sea to help Vietnam in March, though there have been delays in delivering on said promise. China has nonetheless used the dispute with Vietnam to once again accuse Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of conspiring against China with other countries. China Daily, a newspaper run by the government, accused both countries and the Philippines of teaming up to “bully” China into yielding territory. The Chinese government has also warned Japan in statements to stay out of territorial disputes with other countries. “We require the Japanese side to consistently take realistic actions to protect the region’s peace and stability,” said spokesman Hong Lei last week.
In addition to disputes with Vietnam and Japan, the Philippines arrested eleven Chinese fishermen for poaching in waters China claims as theirs.