Vietnam fishermen attacked by Chinese boats in disputed waters near Paracels: State media

HANOI (AFP) - A Vietnamese fishing crew said they were attacked by a Chinese vessel using water cannon in disputed waters near the flashpoint Paracel Islands, Vietnam's state media reported on Monday.

The wooden Vietnamese fishing boat from central Quang Ngai province was near the Paracels - known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese - on June 7 when it was attacked by a red-and-white painted Chinese vessel, the Lao Dong newspaper said.

"The crew signalled to the (Chinese) boat not to use water cannon as they feared their boat would sink, but they fired the water directly at them," the report said.

One of the 13-man crew was knocked over and broke his leg during the altercation, the report said, quoting the crew. A number of Vietnamese state-run newspapers ran photos of the sailor with his leg in plaster.

In a separate incident, on June 10, another Vietnamese fishing boat in the same area was surrounded by four Chinese boats and had their equipment and catch stolen, the Lao Dong newspaper said.

The communist neighbours are locked in a longstanding maritime dispute over islands and fishing rights in the South China Sea.

Last year, tensions came to a head when Beijing moved a deep water oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi, triggering deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam.

Swept along by nationalist sentiment and forced to venture further out to sea to fill their nets, Vietnam's commercial fishing fleet have often found themselves on the front lines of the maritime dispute.

Both Vietnam and China claim full sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, which Beijing have controlled since 1974 after seizing them from the then-South Vietnam regime in a brief battle.

China's claim to almost the entire South China Sea conflicts with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.