Vietnam Launches Force to Keep an Eye on its Waters

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier docks at a port in Sanya in China's southern island province of Hainan for supplies before it sets off to carry out experiments and military exercises in the South China Sea, Nov. 29. (Photo/CNS)

HANOI—Vietnam officially launched a fisheries surveillance force Tuesday that will monitor local fishermen and work to protect the country’s territorial waters.

The move comes at a time of heightened tensions between several countries that have competing ownership claims to parts of the South China Sea, which surround Vietnam.

Officially known as the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance, the force will conduct sea patrols to monitor and protect fisheries resources, assist fishermen in distress and maintain maritime security, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said at the launching ceremony in the central coastal city of Danang.

Officials did not specify the size of the force, but said that it would be headquartered in Hanoi and would have four divisions throughout country.

According to state media citing Mr. Hai, Vietnam has around 120,000 fishing vessels with around one million people employed in the fishing industry.

In addition to protecting local fishing resources, the surveillance center will also work to prevent and deal with violations of Vietnamese laws that take place in the waters Vietnam claims.

Vietnam and several other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been embroiled in long-standing territorial disputes with China over parts of the South China Sea.

In recent months China, which claims it has sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea, has tried to assert its control over the mineral-rich waters, in part by implementing fishing regulations.

In January, China enacted a new regulation requiring foreign fishermen to obtain Beijing’s consent before operating in parts of the South China Sea that it claims, including the waters near the Paracel islands.

Vietnam responded to that move to say it had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Paracels and Spratlys.

“Any foreign activities not approved by Vietnam in this area are illegal and invalid,” Luong Thanh Nghi, the then-spokesman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, said in January.



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