Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it was seeking clarification on how a fishing boat sank days ago in disputed waters in the South China Sea after a local rescue agency said a Chinese ship had hit the boat.
There is a long-standing maritime dispute between Vietnam and China in the waterway called Hanoi East Sea. The boat drowned on Wednesday near the Dalai island in the Paracel archipelago, the ministry said in a statement by e-mail, that another Vietnamese fishing boat rescued the five fishermen on board.
“The Vietnamese authorities continue to clarify the cause of the accident,” the ministry said with no further details. Vietnam’s national search and rescue agency said on Wednesday that a Chinese ship had hit and sunk the boat without disclosing whether it was military or civilian.
Chinese media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing as saying on Thursday that the fishing boat was drowning when the Chinese ship approached and its crew rescued the fishermen.
China claims sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea and has expanded military and other installations on islands and coral reefs, raising concern among neighboring countries and Washington.