Vietnam requests release of detained fishermen
(23 March 2012)
China reportedly detained 21 Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea on 3 March 2012. The fishermen were believed to be near the disputed Paracel Islands, currently under control by the Chinese military since 1974, when they were detained by Chinese authorities; both China and Vietnam claim sovereignty over the islands. Vietnamese officials have stated that China is demanding 70,000 yuan (US$11,000) in order for the fishermen to be released for illegal poaching activities in their waters. China has responded that their actions are lawful, while both countries have portrayed the events as a violation of their sovereignty. Vietnam has sent a diplomatic notice to China’s embassy in Hanoi requesting the release as well as the ending of all harassment of Vietnamese fishermen.
Other small disputes between China and Vietnam over the islands have occurred since the beginning of 2012, including the allegation that China had prevented 11 Vietnamese fishermen from seeking shelter near the islands during a storm in February, as well as claims that the state-owned Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation had been allowed to open bidding for oil exploration.
Sources: ‘China: Vietnamese fishermen detained’, Edward Wong, New York Times, 23 March 2012; ‘Hanoi urges Beijing to release sailors’, Loretta Chao, Wall Street Journal Asia, 23 March 2012; ‘Vietnam, China in new spat over fishermen detentions’, Agence France Presse, 22 March 2012