Vietnam protests Chinese ship seizure Read more: http://www

Earth Times
29 March 2010

Hanoi - Vietnam protested to China over the seizure and continued detention of a Vietnamese fishing boat and its crew by Chinese naval patrol boats in the South China Sea, local press reported Tuesday.

The newspaper Thanh Nien reported that Vietnam had asked China to release the boat and its crew, which were seized March 22 near the disputed Paracel Islands.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga, the Vietnamese government met with Chinese representatives, affirmed Vietnam's claim to the Paracels and asked China "to immediately and unconditionally release the boat and its crew."

Nga did not specify on what day the meeting had taken place.

Over the past year, Chinese forces have repeatedly detained Vietnamese fishing boats near the islands, which both countries claim. The Paracels belonged to the former South Vietnam until China seized them in 1974.

Nguyen Thanh Hung, deputy chairman of the commune of Binh Chau, home of the fishermen being held, said China has demanded a fine of 180 million dong (10,000 dollars) for the release of the fishermen.

The families are too poor to pay the fine, Hung said. The fishermen are being held on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracels.

Hung said the boat seized has an 80-horsepower engine and is worth 13,500 dollars.

In August and October, China seized several fishing boats and their crews when they tried to shelter in the disputed Paracel Islands during storms.

On February 2, a Vietnamese fishing boat owner reported that a Chinese patrol had stopped and boarded his boat and seized 500 kilograms of fish, a navigation device, spare parts and tools.

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.

Copyright DPA

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