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Indonesia denies wounding Vietnam fishermen in renewed South China Sea clash

The Indonesian navy has rejected claims it injured four people after firing at a fishing vessel inside Vietnam's waters in the second such clash in two months. Jakarta insists its warship merely let off a warning shot.

Indonesien KRI Sultan Hasanuddin 366

Indonesian navy ship sailing off Borneo

Two Vietnamese fishing boats were four nautical miles inside Indonesian waters and sailing towards the bow of the Indonesian corvette KRI Wiratno-379 when they were intercepted, a navy spokesman said on Monday night.

"One warning shot was fired to the air," and the warship "chased" the intruders out of Indonesia's exclusive economic zone, according to Colonel Gig Jonias Sipasulta. 

Read more: Australia mulls joint naval patrols with Indonesia

"So the Vietnamese claims are false," he added. "The navy has always taken measured action in accordance with the procedure." 

Vietnamese media had reported that four men were injured – two of them seriously – when they were fired on inside Vietnamese waters on Saturday.

Indonesia has become increasingly assertive in defending its maritime territory in the face of Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

 

Flexing muscles at sea

Indonesian and Vietnamese vessels also clashed at sea in May, when an Indonesian patrol boat intercepted several fishing ships. An Indonesian officer boarded one of the Vietnamese vessels. Then, a Vietnamese coast guard ship arrived at the scene and rammed and sank the fishing ship with the officer on board.

The Indonesian patrol boat left the area after detecting that several more Vietnamese coast guard vessels were on route. Nobody was hurt in the incident, but Indonesia had 11 Vietnamese citizens in custody and Vietnam was holding the fisheries officer it rescued after the sinking. The man was released several days after the incident.Read more: Indonesia protests Chinese intervention in fishing dispute

In June, Indonesian authorities freed a total of 695 Vietnamese fishermen who were detained for illegal fishing. Nearly 200 others, however, remain in custody. Indonesia has also sunk hundreds of poachers' ships after seizing them in recent years.

dj/rt (AP, dpa)

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