Apr 10, 2020 / 20:21

Pentagon joins chorus of protest at China’s sinking of Vietnam fishing vessel

The Hanoitimes - The United States has joined Vietnam and the Philippines in objecting to China's sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the South China Sea on April 2.

After the US State Department, the Department of Defense has said it is “greatly concerned” by reports of a China Coast Guard vessel's collision with and sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

 Vietnamese fishing boats. Photo: VNE

A Vietnamese fishing boat sank after being rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands on April 2 morning while operating within Vietnamese waters. Eight Vietnamese fishermen were captured and detained on a nearby island in Hoang Sa.

The fishermen were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels operating nearby and returned to their home province of Quang Ngai on April 4.

China’s behavior stands in contrast to the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms, the Pentagon said in a statement on April 9.

“The United States will continue to support efforts by our allies and partners to ensure freedom of navigation and economic opportunity throughout the entire Indo-Pacific,” it stressed.

The department called on all parties to refrain from actions that would destabilize the region, distract from the global response to the pandemic, or risk needlessly contributing to loss of life and property.

Using the same tone three days earlier, the US Department of State expressed its serious concern about the incident.

“We call on the PRC to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea,” stated Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on April 8 also expressed deep concern over the sinking of the Vietnamese fishing boat, noting that such incidents undermine the potential of a genuinely deep and trusting regional relationship between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.

After the sinking of the Vietnamese boat, Vietnam’s foreign ministry lodged an official protest with China, calling it an act that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fishermen.