Vietnam’s state-owned oil and gas company has accused Chinese fishing boats of sabotaging one of its seismic survey ships in the South China Sea, adding to tensions over Beijing’s disputed territorial claims in the waters.
PetroVietnam said two fishing boats cut across cables being laid by the survey vessel Binh Minh 2 off the coast of central Vietnam on Friday.
“PetroVietnam vehemently protests the Chinese fishing boats’ action against the Binh Minh 2,” Pham Viet Dung, the deputy head of exploration at the company, said. “We ask that China educate its citizens to respect Vietnamese waters.”
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, bringing it into conflict with its neighbours.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim part of the waters, which are believed to be rich in gas and oil reserves as well as fish stocks. China, which is strengthening its navy, has been increasingly assertive in pressing its claims as its economy as grown.
This is the second time Chinese fishing vessels have reportedly damaged the Vietnamese survey ship’s cables. An incident in June last year off Vietnam’s central coast triggered rare street protests in Hanoi.
China has issued new passports featuring a map showing its territorial claims in the South China Sea, angering Vietnam and the Philippines, which have refused to stamp the documents.
Meanwhile, the head of India’s navy said it was prepared to deploy vessels to the South China Sea to protect its oil interests there. Indian state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp has a stake in a gas field in the Nam Con Son basin, off Vietnam’s south coast.
Chief Admiral DK Joshi said India was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests.