By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - The U.S. voiced concern Monday over reports of China's sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel last week.
"We are seriously concerned by reports of the PRC's sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus in a statement, referring to People's Republic of China.
Ortagus said the incident is the latest in a string of Chinese actions to "assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea."
She said that Beijing has also announced new research stations on military bases it built on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef, two islands in the South China Sea, and landed special military aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef, since the global coronavirus outbreak.
"The PRC has also continued to deploy maritime militia around the Spratly Islands. China’s Nine-Dashed Line was deemed an unlawful maritime claim by an arbitral tribunal convened under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention in July 2016, a position shared by the U.S. Government," the spokeswoman added.
Washington urged China to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic and to "stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea."
The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands belonging to China on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, according to a statement made by Vietnam's foreign ministry on Saturday.