HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has asked Indonesia to investigate and clarify reports that the Indonesian navy shot and wounded two Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea.
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi by telephone that the reported incident was “very serious … and not appropriate with the strategic partnership relationship between Vietnam and Indonesia,” the Vietnamese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“Vietnam is deeply concerned about this incident and proposes Indonesia to quickly investigate and clarify the incident and inform Vietnam of the results and to stop repeating similar acts,” Minh was quoting as saying.
Earlier this week, a local Vietnamese sea rescue committee said Indonesia’s navy had shot and wounded the Vietnamese fishermen last weekend.
The Vietnamese boat was about 132 nautical miles (245 km) southeast of Con Dao island when the fishermen were shot on Saturday night, the Binh Dinh provincial search and rescue committee said on its website.
The report was pulled off the website the next day.
Indonesia’s foreign minister told Reuters the information provided by her country’s navy on the incident was different and said illegal fishing involving Vietnam had been a long-term issue.
Marsudi said in a text message she had underlined to Vietnam’s foreign minister the importance of the countries settling negotiations on their exclusive economic zones. She said the two would meet in Manila during a regional forum next month.
The Indonesian navy has yet to comment on the incident.
Disputes over fishing rights and oil drilling have stoked tension in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods is shipped each year.
China claims almost the entire sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.
Although Indonesia says it is not a party to the dispute, it recently renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, asserting its own maritime claim.
The coordinates given by the Vietnamese search and rescue committee 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 crackdown on 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.
Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Agustinus Boa Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kim Coghill