China denies Vietnamese fishing boats shelter on Paracel Islands

By Toan Dao   August 14, 2016 | 08:12 pm PT
The islands are traditional fishing grounds for Vietnamese fishermen.

China have refused to allow six Vietnamese fishing boats to anchor near a reef in the Paracel archipelago in the South China Sea (which Vietnam calls the East Sea) while they were trying to find shelter from extreme weather, media reports said Sunday,

The six fishing boats from Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam with 259 crew on board had encountered rough seas and big waves on the morning of August 12 in waters 40 nautical miles from the Paracels, and had asked to take refuge in Bombay Reef, which is under Chinese control, the reports said, quoting statements from Vietnam's National Committee for Search and Rescue.

Following a request from the comittee, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the Chinese side to ask for the boats to anchor in Bombay Reef.

At 10 p.m. the same day, the Vietnamese foreign ministry said Chinese authorities had turned down the request, claiming that Bombay Reef was an unsuitable place for the boats to anchor.

At present, the six fishing boats are anchored around five nautical miles southeast of the reef, and have been asked to be in touch with Vietnamese authorities on the mainland and prepare for any eventuality.

In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracel Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.

Vietnam's behemoth northern neighbor has illegally occupied the islands ever since. But a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its ownership of the Paracel Islands.

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