TOKYO May 28 Japan said on Wednesday it was
unable to immediately provide decomissioned patrol ships to
Vietnam amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea as its
own coastguard was stretched by surveillance activities.
As tensions mount between China and other claimants to the
South China Sea, countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines
are rushing to bolster their maritime patrols.
Japan, itself locked in a bitter territorial spat with
China, in March agreed to dispatch a research team to Vietnam as
a step toward providing it with patrol ships.
Asked about the possibility of providing used patrol ships
to Vietnam to expedite the process, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
told parliament: "Surveillance duties are getting heavier for
the Japan Coast Guard."
"Regrettably, our country is not in a situation where we can
retire all the vessels that have reached such age."
Patrol ships from China and Japan have been playing cat and
mouse in waters near disputed East China Sea islets, raising
fears of an accidental clash between the world's second- and
In the South China Sea, scores of Vietnamese and Chinese
ships, including coastguard vessels, have continued to square
off around a Chinese oil rig in contested waters.
Vietnam said earlier this week a Chinese boat rammed and
sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel not far from the oil rig, while
China's official Xinhua news agency reported the vessel capsized
after "harassing and colliding with" a Chinese fishing boat.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Vietnamese Deputy
Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said Hanoi was keen to have aid from
Japan and other countries to help manage its coastline and
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)