Vietnam claims that a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat near the disputed Parcel Islands in the South China Sea, while Beijing tells an entirely different story.

The Vietnamese ship was struck by a Chinese vessel marked 44101 near Discovery Reef on March 6, 2019, Vietnam's official Tuoi Tre newspaper reported March 7, 2019, citing Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue told VN Express, another Vietnamese outlet the same thing.


The five crew members reportedly clung to the bow of the sinking fishing boat until they were rescued roughly two hours later by another Vietnamese fishing boat.

An Vietnamese official speaking on background confirmed the report to the Associated Press.

Vietnamese fishing boats.

(Flickr photo by Joe Gatling)

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman argued that China detected a distress signal from a Vietnamese fishing vessel and dispatched a ship to assist, explaining that upon arrival, the Chinese ship discovered a vessel that was already sinking, the Chinese-language version of the Global Times reported.

Rather than provide assistance, the Chinese vessel reportedly contacted the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Chinese media reports that the five fishermen were rescued, without providing any details on who rescued them.

None of the crew were injured in the incident.

The Paracels are a sore spot in bilateral ties between China and Vietnam. China seized these territories by force in the 1970s and has since constructed military outposts on a number of the features in this area.

In recent years, there have been several confrontations.

For example, Vietnam claimed in 2014 Chinese vessels encircled a Vietnamese fishing boat before ramming and sinking it. China argued that the Vietnamese ship was harassing the Chinese vessels. A similar incident occurred two years later.

China has clashed with other countries as well, including the US. In September 2018, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy vessel during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratlys, forcing the US warship off course and risking a collision.

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