Vietnamese Fishermen Will Disregard Chinese Warnings
On Thursday, a leading Vietnamese fishing association said that Vietnam's fishermen would continue to disregard verbal threats and physical attacks carried out by China on their boats in the vicinity of the disputed Paracel Islands.
“Vietnamese fishermen will continue fishing in the area as usual,” said the chairman of Quang Ngai Province Fishery Association, Phan Huy Hoang, speaking to local media. “If China should take any action, the government of Vietnam will apply measures to deal with it.”
In the recent past, Chinese coast guard forces and fishing vessels have attacked Vietnamese fishing boats, including several instances of ramming and sinking in addition lesser attacks involving boardings and equipment destruction.
The border conflict has run both ways; Vietnamese Coast Guard forces ejected six Chinese fishing boats found within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone in July.
A recent warning from China's Supreme Court against fishing in Chinese-claimed waters "is just like other statements they have made in the past to ban any fishing activities in the South China Sea,” Hoang said. “Those statements that ban fishing activities within their nine-dash line are illegitimate, and nobody should acknowledge them.”
China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan called earlier this week for a "people's war at sea" to preserve Beijing's claims in the South China Sea, claims which the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has ruled invalid. Chang’s language echoed other hawkish statements from within the People's Liberation army.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Hai Binh responded Thursday by calling for a civil, diplomatic approach to managing the South China Sea question. “Officials of countries need to speak and act in accordance with official statements as well as their nations’ obligations, which are respecting international law, not using or threatening to use force," he said. However, he said that Vietnam would retain the right to defend its fishermen. “The treatment of fishermen working in the East Sea must comply with international law and agreements reached between countries," he said. “Vietnam reserves the necessary measures for protecting its fishermen’s legitimate interests in line with international law and practice.”