Beijing beefs up South China Sea patrol amid friction with Vietnam

Earth Times

1 April 2010

The two fisheries administration ships set off from the southern island of Hainan to mount China's first dual-vessel patrol of areas close to the disputed Spratly islands, which are known as the Nansha in Chinese, the semi-official China News Service said.

The "Nansha patrol united action" is designed crack down on piracy and protect the "normal production and life of Chinese fishermen," the agency quoted officials as saying. The officials said the dual patrol would initially last one month but could be extended.

The two patrol vessels include the fisheries administration's largest and fastest vessel, a converted naval ship weighing 4,450 tons. The agency said Chinese fishing vessels had been attacked or seized in the area more than 300 times since 1994, resulting in the death of 25 Chinese citizens and the detention of some 1,800 others.

The launch of the new patrol follows a protest by Vietnam to China on Tuesday over the seizure of a Vietnamese fishing boat and its crew by Chinese naval patrol boats on March 22 close to the nearby Paracels, or Xisha in Chinese.

Vietnam has accused China of repeatedly detaining Vietnamese fishing boats near the islands over the past year. The Paracels belonged to the former South Vietnam until China seized them in 1974. Tensions over sovereignty in the South China Sea have been rising since May when regional nations submitted maritime territorial claims to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

At a November workshop on regional maritime territorial disputes in Hanoi, experts said the disputes were likely to drag on for decades. The area surrounding the Spratly and Paracel Islands is believed to contain substantial undersea oil and mineral deposits.


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