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9 June 2009

China asked to stop hindering Vietnamese fishermen

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Vietnam has asked China to stop preventing Vietnamese fishermen from going about their normal work in what it claimed were Vietnamese waters after an increase in arrests and fines by Chinese patrol boats, reported Reuters.

The tiff is the latest in a long-running maritime dispute over the sovereignty of sections of the South China Sea, known in Vietnam as the Eastern Sea, which have erupted into skirmishes in the past.

The South China Sea - the shortest route between the Pacific and Indian oceans - has some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with more than half of global oil tanker traffic passing through the area.

Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son told China's Ambassador to Vietnam Sun Guoxiang that increased Chinese patrols, including in Vietnamese waters, had led to more arrests and fines affecting "normal fishing activities by Vietnamese fishermen in Vietnam's traditional fishing grounds".

"They have caused discontent among the public and do not serve the interest of bilateral relations between the two countries," spokesman Le Dung quoted Son as saying in a statement seen on Monday.

China had warned its neighbours to stay off disputed islands in the South China Sea last month, telling the United Nations it held "indisputable sovereignty" over the waters.

Son requested the Chinese side "refrain from any activities preventing normal work by Vietnamese fishermen in the sea areas under Vietnamese sovereignty", the statement said. China enforces seasonal fishing bans to conserve stocks.


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