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Vietnam says China is holding 21 fishermen

Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – China is holding 21 Vietnamese fishermen on a disputed island in the South China Sea, officials said.

Chinese forces intercepted two fishing boats on March 3 near the Paracel islands, said an official from Vietnam’s central Quang Ngai province, where the fishermen came from. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

The official said the fishermen are being held on an island in the Paracels, which are occupied by China but also claimed by Vietnam. He said the fishermen have called their families and said the Chinese forces are demanding 70,000 yuan ($11,000) for their release.

In a statement posted on the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s website late Wednesday, spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said the arrests seriously violate Vietnam’s sovereignty over the island chain.

Nghi said Vietnam strongly protested China’s action and demanded that it immediately and unconditionally release the fishermen and their fishing boats, and stop interfering with Vietnamese fishermen’s activities in the country’s waters.

A Foreign Ministry representative has met with Chinese embassy officials to lodge the protests, he said.

Tensions have risen in recent months over the rival territorial claims.

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