Vietnam vehemently opposes the use of or threat to use force against its vessels, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh said at a press briefing in Hanoi on Friday.
Binh made the statement in reply to reporters’ questions about the reports that some Chinese coast guard and military ships threatened to use force against a Vietnamese supply ship off Vietnam's Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago a fortnight ago, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
Vietnam’s competent agencies are verifying the location where the incident took place and other relevant issues in order to take proper diplomatic measures, he added. The spokesman affirmed Vietnam’s consistent stance of resolutely protesting against any actions that use or threaten to use force against Vietnamese vessels. “These actions infringe international law, run counter to the spirit and wording of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea, seriously menace peace and stability in the region, and are completely unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Binh said.
The incident in question happened on November 13, when four Chinese vessels, including two coast guard ships and a warship, bullied and scared away the Vietnamese supply ship Hai Dang 05 off Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago, the captain of the local boat, Tran Van Nga, said.
The incident occurred when Hai Dang 05 was on a mission of giving supplies to the staff of the lighthouses in Truong Sa, Captain Nga said.
At 9:30 am that day, Hai Dang 05 was sailing past Subi Reef at a distance of about 12 nautical miles when a Chinese ship appeared, approaching the local vessel and scaring it away.
Subi Reef belongs to Truong Sa but has been illegally occupied by China.
The two Chinese coast guard ships, coded 35115 and 2305, appeared later and sped up toward the Vietnamese ship, Captain Nga narrated.
“The ship 35115 rushed to the prow of our boat while the ship 2305 darted toward the stern,” the captain said. “We had to try to steer our boat so that it could avoid colliding with either of the Chinese vessels.”
At 11:00 am, a Chinese warship came from Subi Reef, headed for Hai Dang 05 and used equipment to disrupt radar waves, Nga said.
The warship then repeatedly let off flares toward Hai Dang 05 and broadcast messages in Chinese through a loudspeaker to drive the local ship away, he added.
At 11:30 am, the warship exposed a 37mm artillery gun by removing its wrappings, and more than 10 people in camouflage battledress armed with AR assault rifles were deployed in different positions on board, pointing their guns at the local ship, Captain Nga recounted.
At that time, Hai Dang 05, which is not armed with any weapons, had 31 crew members aboard, including 17 sailors and 14 employees of the Southern Vietnam Maritime Safety Corporation, the captain said.
The soldiers on board the Chinese warship kept aiming their guns at the Vietnamese boat until 1:30 pm, when all of the Chinese vessels left, he added.