Vietnamese fishermen said they will never abandon their traditional fishing territory on the East Sea despite being threatened by Chinese surveillance ships and fishing boats in recent years.
The declaration stems from China’s disputed claim that it owns 80 percent of the East Sea, about 2.8 million square kilometers, which has also been claimed by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam.
To assert authority over the disputed area, which has been traditional fishing grounds for Vietnamese fishermen for centuries, Chinese authorities have dispatched armed ships to seize and arrest Vietnamese fishermen in an effort to scare them out of the waters.
The latest case was on May 26 when China sent three surveillance ships to cut the cables of a Vietnamese seismic vessel only 116 nautical miles offshore from Dai Lanh cape in the central Phu Yen province.
International law ruled the area within 200 nautical miles from the coast as an exclusive economic zone for Vietnam.
Chinese fishermen have also bullied their Vietnamese counterparts by threatening them with swords when they see each other. They have even called other ships to surround and intentionally crash into Vietnamese boats.
“Once my fishing boat cruised on an area Chinese ships were fishing, dozens of their men went on deck with knives and swords in hand, shouted and gestured that they will cut our throats,” said captain Nguyen Dinh Nha from Phu Yen.
Another captain Tran Van Hung also from Phu Yen said, “I have troubles with fishing boats from China everyday. Once when I was fishing, they came in a large fleet of around 30 ships and surrounded me. At the end of the fishing day I took back the net and withdrew, but on steering close to ships to escape, they came on deck and shouted noisily and threatened with knives.”
In order to fish more safely in their traditional fishing grounds, Vietnamese boats join together in groups of at least five so they can defend and assist one another, said fisherman Nguyen Van Viet from Phu Yen.
Encroachment in large herd
Fishermen have reported to the Vietnamese coast guard units that more Chinese fishing boats have been encroaching on Vietnam’s waters.
Da Nang fishermen Vo Thanh Luong said many Chinese fishing boats can be seen just 60 to 70 nautical miles from mainland Vietnam.
Records of Vietnamese coast guard unit 328 show that Chinese fishing ships have increasingly encroached on territorial waters of Vietnam in an organized manner.
However, specific details of the cases of violations have not been revealed.
Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Ngoc Ry from the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago told Tuoi Tre that China has sent 20 patrol ships to watch the disputed seas daily in Truong Sa and to chase and arrest Vietnamese fishing ships.
In response to China’s provocation, Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told local media that the Vietnamese navy will take any necessary steps to defend its territory.
However, she has yet revealed specific measures that will be taken, except for the announcement that Vietnam has sent a diplomatic note of protest to the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam.