THE Indonesian navy has denied Hanoi’s claim that it shot and wounded four Vietnamese fisherman in the South China Sea last weekend, a report said.
The Jakarta Post quoted a navy spokesman as saying that a patrol on Sunday intercepted Vietnamese boats believed to be fishing within Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone near the Natuna Islands but merely chased them away with warning shots.
“As such, there is no truth to Vietnam’s statement,” he said. “The navy always provides a measured response in accordance with protocol.”
The spokesman was responding to the claim by the Binh Dinh provincial search and rescue committee, involving a Vietnamese-flagged fishing boat that was about 132 nautical miles (245km) southeast of Vietnam’s Con Dao island when the fishermen were shot on Saturday night.
The Vietnamese authorities claimed two fishermen were seriously wounded and were taken to Con Dao island for treatment.
This follows two similar incidences involving the Indonesian navy and Vietnamese vessels last week.
The South China Sea is a hotbed for disputes over fishing rights and oil drilling. The waterway sees some US$5 trillion in goods passing through its shipping lines each year.
Under it’s so-called nine-dash line, China claims almost the entire sea. However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have made their own claims.
Although Indonesia is not a party in the dispute, it recently renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, asserting its own maritime claim.
The coordinates given by the Vietnamese indicated that the shooting happened close to the area Indonesia now calls the North Natuna Sea.
Indonesia has sunk hundreds of mostly foreign boats caught illegally fishing in its waters since President Joko Widodo launched a battle against the poaching of fish in 2014.
Indonesia and Vietnam said in May they would launch a joint investigation after reports that Vietnamese coast guards had tried to forcibly free five fishing boats and their crew detained in waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands.
Additional reporting by Reuters