Tensions in the South China Sea are once again soaring after a Vietnames fishing boat reportedly came under attack by a Chinese vessel near the contested Paracel Islands, a Vietnamese official said Friday. According to the Australian Associated Press the dangerous incident has sent tensions in the region to “a new high”.
The Vietnamese boat was fishing near Discovery Reef some 370 kilometers off Da Nang in Paracel island chain when according to Hanoi government officials it was rammed by the presumably larger Chinese vessel. The fishing boat capsized, leaving five Vietnamese crewmen clinging to the side of their upturned vessel for two hours before they were rescued by another nearby fishing boat.
Crucially, the Paracel archipelago is an intensely disputed island chain and territory, claimed by both Vietnam and China, the latter which took control of the islands in 1974. It’s known as Xisha in Chinese and Hoàng Sa in Vietnamese, and the People’s Republic of China has over the past years attempted to solidify its hold by building up reefs and artificial islands, including the construction of military installations and harbors.