by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) June 10, 2011
Vietnam protested to China Thursday after what it claimed was a "premeditated" attack on an exploration ship in its waters, but Beijing hit back, warning its neighbour against violating its sovereignty.
The latest incident comes against a backdrop of increased anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam, where hundreds of people staged a rare protest Sunday over the activities of Chinese ships in disputed waters.
With ties between Beijing and Hanoi at their lowest ebb in years owing to territorial spats over potentially oil-rich waters, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung vowed to protect Vietnam's "incontestable" sovereignty.
Hanoi said a Chinese fishing boat "intentionally rammed" the exploration cables of a vessel, chartered by state energy giant PetroVietnam, conducting a seismic survey inside its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone Thursday.
The incident was "premeditated and carefully calculated" as China aims to bring an undisputed area into the territorial row, foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters.
"This is unacceptable to Vietnam," she said, adding the foreign ministry had met Chinese embassy officials Thursday afternoon "to express our opposition to such acts".
Two Chinese fishing enforcement vessels and other fishing boats arrived to assist the Chinese boat, Nga said, adding that the collision had damaged the Vietnamese ship.
She said the area in question falls completely under Vietnamese sovereignty according to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
But, in apparent reference to the same incident, China gave a different version of events in a report carried by official news agency Xinhua early Friday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese fishing boats were chased away by armed Vietnamese ships on Thursday morning.
According to Beijing's account, during the incident the fishing net of one of the Chinese boats became tangled with the cables of a Vietnamese oil exploring vessel, which was operating illegally in the area.
The oil exploration boat continued dragging the Chinese vessel for more than an hour with Chinese fishermen forced to cut off the fishing net, the report said.
Hong said Vietnam's oil exploration in the area and the actions of the Vietnamese vessels had grossly infringed Chinese sovereignty.
The incident comes just two weeks after three Chinese marine surveillance vessels severed the exploration cables of the Binh Minh 2, another Vietnamese oil survey ship inside the 200 nautical mile zone, according to Hanoi.
Vietnam said it has since deployed eight ships to "escort" the Binh Minh 2 -- without saying what kind of vessels -- a move analysts say raises the stakes in the dispute.
After the May 26 incident, China said Vietnamese vessels were operating "illegally" and urged the country to "refrain from creating trouble".
Beijing says it is committed to peace in the South China Sea, but its more assertive maritime posture has caused concern among regional nations.
Tensions have also risen this year between China and the Philippines, another claimant to the Spratly islands, where Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also say they have a stake.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned last weekend that clashes may erupt in the South China Sea unless nations with conflicting territorial claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.
Hundreds of people held a peaceful anti-China protest outside Beijing's embassy in Hanoi on Sunday, the largest action of its kind since 2007. Protests are rare in authoritarian Vietnam.
Tensions have also spread to the Internet.
In the past few days a number of Vietnamese websites have been hacked including one connected with the foreign ministry, with information in Chinese and images of the Chinese flag left behind, Nga said.
earlier related report
Ambassador Liu Jianchao also said China was within its rights to protect its sovereignty in the Spratlys even as he asserted his country would not resort to force in the disputed area in the South China Sea.
"We are exercising jurisdiction over this area so we will do whatever is appropriate for us to do to exercise our jurisdiction," the ambassador told a press forum when asked about recent incidents in the Spratlys.
"It's rather unfortunate that this issue... started with a bad rumour," Liu said, referring to reports such as one about two alleged Chinese fighter jets flying near a Philippine military plane in the Spratlys.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino said there were seven incidents involving Chinese confrontations with Filipinos in the Spratlys in less than four months.
The incidents happened in an area of the South China Sea just outside the Spratlys, a reputedly oil-rich island chain claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
They included one case where a Chinese vessel allegedly fired on Filipino fishermen.
"We clarified that. There was no firing in that area," Liu said.
The ambassador also said that some of the alleged incidents were cases of Chinese scientific surveys that were mistaken for military activity.
He also reiterated that China wanted the issue settled peacefully but through bilateral talks with the other claimants even as he rejected US interference in the matter.
In reaction, Philippine Defence Department spokesman Eduardo Batac said his agency and the military all stood by the previous statements of "intrusions" by the Chinese.
"We are bringing our case to the international community (to) let the international community be judge with regards to these actions that were taken by China," he said.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned on Saturday that clashes may erupt unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.
Liu said China would always adhere to a 2002 pact among the claimants to refrain from actions that could inflame tensions in the area.
That agreement was signed by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations which includes many of the other claimants.
Aquino's spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said Thursday Manila was committed to a "multilateral approach to the resolution of claims."
However, he said "territorial rights must be asserted with firmness."
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Caltech researchers find compaction bands in sandstone are permeable
Pasadena CA (SPX) Jun 09, 2011
When geologists survey an area of land for the potential that gas or petroleum deposits could exist there, they must take into account the composition of rocks that lie below the surface. Take, for instance, sandstone-a sedimentary rock composed mostly of weakly cemented quartz grains. Previous research had suggested that compaction bands-highly compressed, narrow, flat layers within the s ... read more
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