Earlier today Shannon and myself noted that Vietnam and Chinese vessels had collided in the South China Sea as Hanoi tried to prevent China from setting up an oil rig in the disputed waters.
On Wednesday, Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the High Command of Vietnam Marine Police, held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the matter. During the press conference, a video was played in the background that appeared to show Chinese vessels backed by helicopters trying to obstruct the movement of Vietnam’s vessels. The footage from the video was provided by the Vietnamese fisheries surveillance force, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense.
A low-quality version of that video has been posted on Youtube. It appears to have been taped by one of the media outlets that attended the press conference. English language subtitles of Thu’s remarks also appear on the video:
As previously noted, Vietnam has said that it had deployed up to 25 naval and civilian vessels to prevent China from setting up the oil rig. Tran Duy Hai, deputy chairman of the Vietnam National Border Committee, told the press conference on Wednesday that China had deployed around 80 of its own vessels to accompany and guard the oil rigs. He said this included: 7 military ships, 33 marine patrol boats and surveillance ships as well as other smaller ships such as fishing vessels.
According to Vietnamese media outlets, a total of eight Vietnamese ships were rammed, hit or sprayed with high pressure hoses. At least two ramming incidents have occurred, one early May 3 and the other early May 4. The first of these took place at such high velocity that the windows of the Vietnamese vessels were smashed, causing injury to Vietnamese crew members, as depicted in the videos.
At the press conference, Thu warned: “Vietnam has exercised restraint. But if Chinese vessels continue ramming Vietnamese ships, we’ll have to act out of self-defense.” Vietnam has also called for China to remove the vessels and oil rigs and then engage in talks with Vietnam.