BEIJING, China – China fired water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel and damaged another of Hanoi's ships, state media said Tuesday, June 3, in the latest confrontation over disputed waters in the South China Sea.
A Chinese coastguard ship collided with a Vietnamese government vessel on Sunday, state broadcaster China National Radio (CNR) said, adding that the Vietnamese ship was "severely damaged."
A sharp rise in tensions between the Communist neighbors was triggered by China's installation of an oil rig in disputed waters in May, leading to Vietnam's biggest anti-China riots in decades, where 4 people were said to have been killed.
Earlier on Sunday, "China fired a water cannon at a Vietnamese ocean inspection ship creating trouble near the 981 oil platform," the CNR said, adding that the Vietnamese ship retreated after 5 minutes.
Vietnam on May 7 accused a Chinese ship of ramming and sinking one of its fishing boats, fanning territorial tensions over Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.
Relations, though frequently testy, have plummeted between the neighbors over the oil rig's presence, triggering international alarm.
United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned China Saturday against "destabilizing actions" in the South China Sea, and backed Japan's plans to take on a more muscular military role as a counterweight to Beijing.
China reacted angrily to Hagel's comments, with Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Wang Guanzhong accusing the US of "intimidation."
The oil rig is positioned in the vicinity of the contested Paracel Islands.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, locking it into territorial disputes with several Asian neighbors which have intensified in recent years.
China's ruling communist party seeks to win domestic support by taking a tough stance on territorial issues, but also attempts to remain on good terms with neighbors for the sake of economic growth, according to analysts.
Chinese Internet users applauded reports of the latest clash. "This is exactly how we need to deal with Vietnam," one wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
"China is too soft on Vietnam," said another. – Rappler.com