JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia says several Vietnamese fishing vessels escaped its waters following a show of force by Vietnam's coast guard in the South China Sea.
Indonesia's Maritime and Fisheries Ministry said Tuesday that Vietnam is holding an Indonesian fisheries officer, who was aboard one of the Vietnamese vessels, and Indonesia has 11 Vietnamese crew members in its custody.
According to Indonesia, the clash Sunday took place north of the Natuna island chain within Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.
The ministry said five Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels were intercepted by a maritime patrol vessel and were under its control until a Vietnamese coast guard ship rammed the fishing boat with the Indonesian official aboard, sinking it. The ministry said no one was hurt.
It said the Indonesian vessel withdrew after several more Vietnamese coast guard vessels were seen approaching on radar while an Indonesian warship was 30 minutes away.
Vietnam's coast guard declined to comment.
Tensions easily flare in the South China Sea, a major global trading route. China's claim to most of the sea overlaps with the territorial waters of several Southeast Asian nations.
Indonesia has destroyed hundreds of vessels caught fishing illegally in its waters over the past two years, many of them Vietnamese-flagged, as part of a policy of strengthening control over the archipelago nation's vast maritime territory.
Rifky Effendi Hardjianto, secretary-general of the fisheries ministry, told a news conference that ministry officials have met with Vietnam's ambassador and would resolve the incident through normal diplomatic channels. Both sides agreed to avoid a repeat of the clash, he said.