A Chinese fishing boat and its crew are missing after the vessel was intercepted by unidentified armed men near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea yesterday morning, according to a recently published story by Xinhua.
Another Chinese boat nearby was also attacked but escaped, and the crew relayed their stories to Hainan authorities, saying that “Several armed men forced themselves onto the boat and fired four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the boat.”
Reuters has also picked up the story and, as the abduction took place just 60 miles (about 100 kilometers) from Philippines’ Palawan island, an area of contention between China and the Philippines, theories about about the missing ship. Reuters notes:
China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts or all of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.
Whether the attack was specifically targeted against the Chinese crew, or if this is just piracy that happened to cross international jurisdiction, remains to be seen.
It appears as though the attackers were Philippine police, and allege that the Chinese fishermen were hauling hundreds of turtles, presumably in (what is asserted as) Philippine waters:
Philippine police seizes Chinese fishing boat near Half Moon Shoal in Spratlys; boat was found to have hauled 500 turtles – Phil police
— Sui-Lee Wee 黄瑞黎 (@suilee) May 7, 2014