BEIJING, March 22 China said on Thursday it had
detained 21 Vietnamese for illegal fishing around disputed
islands in the South China Sea but Vietnam said the fishermen
had been detained in its waters and demanded that China release
China and Vietnam have overlapping claims to large parts of
the South China Sea and various remote islands and reefs and
even seemingly minor disputes involving fishermen raise concern
about confrontation between the uneasy neighbours.
"Recently, more than 100 Vietnamese fishing boats entered
the waters around the Paracel Islands for illegal fishing.
Unable to drive them out, relevant Chinese authorities
investigated and dealt with a Vietnamese boat and 21 fishermen
in accordance with the law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
Hong Lei said.
"China has irrefutable sovereignty over the Paracel Islands,
and there is no dispute over this. Vietnamese fishing activities
infringe on China's sovereignty and maritime rights," he told a
daily news briefing.
"The relevant actions by Chinese authorities are completely
proper, law enforcement actions. We hope that Vietnam takes
effective measures to earnestly manage and educate its fishermen
and stop their invasive fishing."
But Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi
said it was China that had violated Vietnam's sovereignty.
"Vietnam demands that China immediately and unconditionally
release these fishermen and the fishing vessels, and to cease
the detention ... of Vietnamese fishermen in the waters of
Vietnam," he said.
"A representative from Vietnam's Foreign Affairs Ministry
has met with the Chinese embassy to give them a diplomatic note
outlining Vietnam's position, and will continue the fight to
resolve this matter and protect the legitimate rights of
China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan
all claim territory in the South China Sea. China's claim is the
largest, covering a big U-shape over most of the sea's 648,000
square miles (1.7 million square km), including the Spratly and
Tension has risen in the region in the past year or so on
concern that China is becoming more assertive in its claim to
waters believed to be rich in oil and gas and straddling
shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe and the Middle East.
China has insisted on handling the disputes on a one-on-one
basis rather than multilaterally, a strategy some critics have
described as "divide and conquer". China says its sovereignty is
indisputable and historically based.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Hanoi newsroom; Editing by