China, Vietnam Clash Over Disputed Islands

China is once again at odds with a maritime neighbor over disputed islands, this time — as often — leading to a little shooting and a lot of posturing.

The latest confrontation is with Vietnam over the mostly uninhabited Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Hanoi has accused Beijing’s forces of firing on a Vietnamese vessel engaged in fishing near the islands, which both sides claim.

Vietnam did not say if anyone was hurt in the incident that occurred last Wednesday, but described the matter as “very serious.”

“Vietnam strongly protests, urging China to investigate and seriously deal with the wrongful and inhumane act, and compensate Vietnamese fishermen for their loss,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi was quoted by the BBC as saying.

China’s response:

“It is necessary and legitimate for China to take action against a Vietnamese shipping boat that has entered China’s waters for illegal activity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. “No damage was caused to the fishing boat from Vietnam at the time,” he added, without saying what action the Chinese vessel had taken.

Both country’s claim the islands, which are rich fishing grounds and also sit above undersea oil and gas fields. China and Vietnam fought a one-day naval battle over the low-lying archipeligo in 1974, solidifying Beijing’s control.

Besides Vietnam, China has had disputes with the Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia over similar islands disputes, frequently resulting in tense standoffs at sea.

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