Vietnam complains to China as sea tensions rise

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Vietnam protested to China on Thursday after what it described as a “premeditated” attack on an exploration ship in its waters, raising tensions between the Communist neighbours.

The latest incident comes against a backdrop of increased anti-Chinese sentiment in the Southeast Asian nation, where hundreds of people staged a rare protest Sunday over the activities of Chinese ships in disputed waters. With ties between Beijing and Hanoi at their lowest in years owing to territorial spats over potentially oil-rich waters, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung vowed to protect Vietnam’s “incontestable” sovereignty. Hanoi said a Chinese fishing boat “intentionally rammed” the exploration cables of a vessel, chartered by state energy giant PetroVietnam, conducting a seismic survey inside its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone Thursday.

The incident was “premeditated and carefully calculated” as China aims to bring an undisputed area into the territorial row, foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters. “This is unacceptable to Vietnam,” she said, adding that the foreign ministry had met Chinese embassy officials Thursday afternoon “to express our opposition to such acts”.

Two Chinese fishing enforcement vessels and other fishing boats arrived to assist the Chinese boat, Nga said, adding that the collision affected the Vietnamese ship’s ability to operate normally. She said the area in question is completely under Vietnamese sovereignty according to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It comes just two weeks after three Chinese marine surveillance vessels severed the exploration cables of the Binh Minh 2, another Vietnamese oil survey ship inside the 200 nautical mile zone, according to Hanoi.