BEIJING, May 31 (Reuters) - China warned Vietnam on Tuesday against creating “new incidents” in the disputed South China Sea, after Vietnam accused China of increasing tension with the harassment of a Vietnamese oil exploration ship by three Chinese patrol boats.
The Vietnamese ship, the Binh Minh 02, detected the Chinese patrol boats approaching on radar early last Thursday, the official Vietnam News Agency reported. [ID:nL3E7GR1HL]
About an hour later, the three Chinese boats intentionally ran through the area where the Vietnamese ship was working, snapping cables it was using, then left the scene after about three hours, it said. [ID:nL3E7GT026]
China’s Foreign Ministry defended the action of the Chinese boats.
“The enforcement activities that China’s maritime ships undertook with the illegally operated Vietnamese ships are completely justified,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing.
“We urge the Vietnamese side to immediately stop their activities from infringing on our sovereignty and refrain from creating new incidents,” she added.
Jiang said last week China opposed Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration which “undermined China’s interests and jurisdictional rights in the South China Sea”.
The incident happened about 120 km (80 miles) off the south-central coast of Vietnam and some 600 km (370 miles) south of China’s Hainan island.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territories in the South China Sea, which cover an important shipping route and are thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves. [ID:nSGE6950BX]
China’s claim is by far the largest, forming a vast U-shape over most of the sea’s 648,000 square miles (1.7 million square km), including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
Vietnam has vowed to use its navy to protect the country’s territorial integrity.
China and Vietnam have had a difficult recent history, despite their shared Communist heritage.
China briefly invaded Vietnam in 1979, to punish Vietnam for toppling the China-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. China had previously given Vietnam steadfast support against U.S. forces in the Vietnam War.
In 1974, China attacked and captured the western Paracels from Vietnam. In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near the Spratly reefs, in which more than 70 Vietnamese sailors were killed. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao, Editing by Ben Blanchard and Robert Birsel)