Hanoi said some 40 Chinese fishing boats surrounded the Vietnamese
craft on Monday before one of them rammed it and it sank. Vietnamese
fishing boats operating nearby rescued the 10 fishermen on board,
the government and the coastguard said.
China's official Xinhua news agency, citing a government source,
said the vessel capsized after "harassing and colliding with" a
Chinese fishing boat.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Vietnam caused the
incident with its "insistence on forcefully disrupting China's
normal operations and its dangerous actions on the seas.
"We urge the Vietnamese side once again to immediately stop all
disruptive and damaging (activities)," he added.
Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, including coastguard
vessels, have continued to square off around the rig despite a
series of collisions this month after the platform was towed to the
site. Each side has blamed the other over those incidents. Until
Monday, no ship had sunk.
The disputed incident took place around 17 nautical miles from the
Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig, which is drilling between the Paracel
islands occupied by China and the Vietnamese coast. China calls them
the Xisha islands.
"A Vietnamese boat from the central city of Da Nang was deliberately
encircled by 40 fishing vessels from China before it was attacked by
a Chinese ship," the head of Vietnam's coastguard, Nguyen Quang Dam,
told Reuters by telephone.
Xinhua said: "Crew aboard the boat were saved after their ship
jostled a fishing boat from Dongfang City in southern China's Hainan
province and overturned in the waters near China's Xisha Islands."
Vietnam has said the rig is in its 200-nautical mile exclusive
economic zone and on its continental shelf. China says it is
operating within its waters.
FIRST DRILLING ROUND COMPLETE
On Tuesday, the rig's operator, China Oilfield Services Ltd (COSL),
said the rig had finished its first round of drilling and moved to
another site in the area.
In a statement, COSL said exploration would still take place off the
Xisha islands, suggesting the platform was not moving far.
The rig had "smoothly" completed the first phase of its work said
COSL, the oil service arm of state-run China National Offshore Oil
Company (CNOOC) Group, which owns the $1 billion platform.
COSL said it had obtained relevant geological data from the
drilling, but did not give details or specify the current location
of the rig.
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Neither officials from COSL nor CNOOC Group, parent of flagship unit
CNOOC Ltd, could be reached for comment.
Vietnam state television on Monday said its reporters on a nearby
boat had seen the rig move but it didn't say how far.
In line with previous statements, COSL said drilling was on track to
be completed by mid-August.
The rig is 240 km (150 miles) off Vietnam's coast and 330 km (206
miles) from the southern coast of China's Hainan island.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last week said his
government was considering taking legal action against China
following the deployment of the rig.
That drew an angry response from China.
Earlier this month, mobs angered over the rig attacked mostly
Taiwanese factories in Vietnam. Many of the rioters mistook
Taiwanese companies to be owned by mainland Chinese. At least four
workers were killed.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its
reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that
stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. The
Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims
to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
(Reporting by Nguyen Phuong Linh in HANOI, Michael Martina and Hui
Li in BEIJING and Charlie Zhu in HONG KONG; Writing by Dean Yates;
Editing by Ron Popeski)
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