Vietnam: Chinese ships ram vessels near oil rig
In this photo released by Vietnam Coast Guard, a Chinese ship, left, shoots water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel, right, while a Chinese Coast Guard ship, center, sails alongside in the South China Sea, off Vietnam's coast, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Chinese ships are ramming and spraying water cannons at Vietnamese vessels trying to stop Beijing from setting up an oil rig in the South China Sea, according to Vietnamese officials and video evidence Wednesday, a dangerous escalation of tensions in disputed waters considered a global flashpoint. (AP Photo/Vietnam Coast Guard)
HANOI, Vietnam — Chinese ships have been ramming into and firing water cannons at Vietnamese vessels trying to stop Beijing from putting an oil rig in the South China Sea, according to officials and video footage Wednesday, in a dangerous escalation of tensions over waters considered a global flashpoint.
Several boats have been damaged and at least six Vietnamese on board them have been injured, officials said. The U.S. said it was strongly concerned by “dangerous conduct” in the area.
China recently has been harassing Vietnam and Philippine vessels and fishermen in the potentially oil- and gas-rich waters it claims almost entirely. But China’s deployment of the oil rig on May 1 and the flotilla of escort ships, some armed, is seen as one of its most provocative steps in a gradual campaign of asserting its sovereignty in the South China Sea. With neither country showing any sign of stepping down, the standoff raises the possibility of more serious clashes.