Vietnam to send out sea patrols amid China tensions

A Vietnamese flag flying at a tower near the country's border with China in Dong Van district, Ha Giang province, 8 March 2012 Vietnam-China tensions have been rising in recent months

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Vietnam has announced plans to send patrols to protect its fisheries in the South China Sea amid growing tension with China over disputed waters.

The decree was signed last week on the day China said its vessels would have stop and search powers in the area.

Vietnam's state energy company earlier accused Chinese fishing boats of cutting cables on one of its exploration ships off Vietnam's coast.

Tensions over maritime claims in the area have been rising.

Vietnam and the Philippines accuse China of growing assertiveness around disputed islands and shoals.

The Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) said Chinese fishing boats had sabotaged one of its oil survey vessels last week in the South China Sea, state-run media reported.

The incident happened on Friday at the Gulf of Tonkin, an official from PetroVietnam was quoted by Vietnam News as saying.

PetroVietnam's vessel, Binh Minh 02, was in the process of doing a survey when it ran into the Chinese boats, which asked the vessel to leave the area.

The Chinese boats "ran up behind Binh Minh 02, cutting the Vietnamese ship's seismic survey cables", says Vietnam News.

A similar incident 18 months ago fuelled a row between the two countries and tensions have been rising again in recent months.

Vietnam, along with other neighbouring countries like the Philippines, have accused China of provoking trouble with an increasingly assertive claim to disputed islands and reefs in the area.

China had announced that it granted its border patrol police in the province of Hainan the power to board and search foreign ships that stopped in its waters or violated other regulations.

This move follows another row over a map on new Chinese passports that show disputed areas in the South China Sea as Chinese territory.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan have already complained to China, saying the map on the new passport is an infringement of their sovereignty.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also refused to stamp the new Chinese passports and are instead issuing visas on separate sheets of paper.

India, which disputes two Himalayan regions also claimed by China that is included on the map, is stamping its own map on visas it issues to Chinese citizens.

Malaysia and Brunei also have claims to parts of the South China Sea.

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