Hanoi should never put its people's lives at risk in order to seek sympathy from the international community, experts said on Thursday after the Vietnamese government released footage of a clash between Chinese and Vietnamese boats near an oil rig in the Xisha Islands.
The video footage, which shows a Chinese Coast Guard vessel steaming into the back of a Vietnamese fishing boat and tipping it over, was released by the Vietnamese government to confirm Hanoi's version of the incident in the South China Sea on May 26.
Pan Jin'e, a Vietnam studies expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Vietnamese government is playing up the incident in order to gain more sympathy from the international community.
It mainly relies on three approaches, she said: holding news conferences like the one on Thursday; releasing statements at international conferences; and continuing the confrontation with Chinese vessels.
"The Chinese government will never give up the sovereign rights to drilling in sovereign waters, no matter what ways Vietnam adopts. Hanoi should stop risking its people's lives and try to communicate with Beijing in peaceful ways," Pan said.
The incident was the most serious between ships from the two countries since China dispatched an oil rig to the Xisha Islands on May 1.
Ha Le, deputy head of the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department, said Chinese vessels sank a Vietnamese ship that was fishing in the water about 17 nautical miles from China's Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling platform.
"Since it is the peak season for fishing in the water, many fishing boats from central Vietnam are coming to work in the region," Ha said. "A Chinese vessel threatened those Vietnamese boats. The Vietnamese side asked China's drilling platform to withdraw from the water."
Hong Lei, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said it is the Vietnamese who keep disrupting China's operations.
"After conducting forceful disruptions of the first phase of operation of the 981 drilling platform located in the contiguous zone of the Xisha Islands, the Vietnamese side has kept deploying large numbers of vessels, including armed vessels, to continuously disrupt the second phase of normal operation of the 981 drilling platform since May 27," Hong said.
So far, the Vietnamese side has rammed into Chinese government vessels that are safeguarding security at the scene more than 1,200 times, and has set up large floating objects and obstacles, Hong added.