Vietnam: China coast guard blocked, delayed rescue

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Two Chinese coast guard ships blocked a Vietnamese vessel attempting to aid a fishing boat that had been adrift for two days, Vietnam state media reported Saturday.

The three-hour stand-off on Thursday near the disputed Paracel Islands was only resolved after authorities from both countries initiated communications.

The encounter comes less that two weeks after Vietnamese authorities said a Chinese vessel rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracels on September 29, causing damage that led to the boat sinking. That crew was rescued by another Vietnamese fishing boat.

The latest drama ended when the fishing boat with its 11-member crew was towed into Danang at 5 pm (1000 GMT) Saturday, the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center reported. Three days had passed since the crew radioed that its engine had broken down and two since it reported that the crew was low on water.

China and Vietnam have been engaged in intense, sometime violent dispute over the Paracels for decades. China’s claims also extend hundreds of kilometres to the south, to the Spratly archipelago, where its construction projects are in defiance of rival claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

The United States, Japan and other nations have urged a diplomatic resolution, warning that growing tensions could imperil vital shipping lanes.

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