China blames Vietnam anew in sea clash

Posted at 06/24/2014 9:44 PM | Updated as of 06/25/2014 7:31 AM

BEIJING - Beijing on Tuesday called for peace to return to disputed waters in the South China Sea after Hanoi released footage showing Chinese vessels ramming into a Vietnamese boat.

Vietnamese state media VTV reported on Monday (June 23) that seven Chinese vessels rammed into the left flank of one of its boats, leaving its hull heavily damaged.

The report said no one was hurt in the collision.

The incident took place 11.5 nautical miles away from a Chinese-owned oil rig parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam. Hanoi says the rig is in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf.

China has said the rig was operating within its waters.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Vietnamese side was to blame for collision.

"According to my understanding, on the morning of the June 23rd, the Vietnamese side organised the vessels on the scene to once again breach the operation security cordon set up by the Chinese side. One of the Vietnamese tugboats rammed into the Chinese vessel, causing damage to the Chinese vessel. China again urges the Vietnamese side to immediately stop any forms of disruptions to Chinese operations, immediately withdraw all its ships and personnel on the scene, and quickly restore tranquility to that part of the sea," ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told media at a daily briefing in Beijing.

China announced on Friday (June 20) that it had sent four more oil rigs to the South China Sea in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its exploration for oil and gas in the tense region, less than two months after it positioned a giant drilling platform in waters claimed by Vietnam.

The announcement comes at a time when many countries in Asia are nervous at Beijing's increasing assertiveness in the potentially energy-rich waters, where sovereignty over countless islands and reefs is in dispute.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the waters.