India denies naval stand-off with China

September 1st, 2011 - 6:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) India Thursday dismissed media reports claiming that one of its amphibious assault ships was confronted by a Chinese warship in the South China Sea after its scheduled visit to a Vietnamese port in July.

An Indian Navy spokesperson said the media reports were “incorrect” and that there was “no confrontation” with any vessel in the South China Sea.

INS Airavat was on a scheduled visit to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries in July. A London-based newspaper had reported that the Chinese warship had demanded that the Indian warship identify itself and explain its presence in South China Sea off Vietnam.

“Media reports of INS Airavat being stopped by a Chinese vessel in South China Sea are incorrect. There was no confrontation with any vessel,” an Indian Navy spokesperson said in a statement here.

The external affairs ministry spoke in similar vein.

“There was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat,” ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.

Explaining the chain of events on July 22, the spokesperson said INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between July 19-28. On July 22, INS Airavat sailed from the Vietnamese port of Nha Trang towards Hai Phong, where it was to make a port call.

“At a distance of 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea, it was contacted on open radio channel by a caller identifying himself as the ‘Chinese Navy’ stating that ‘you are entering Chinese waters’,” the spokesperson said. “No ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled,” he added.

The spokesperson stressed that India backed “freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law.”

“These principles should be respected by all,” he added.

China claims sovereignty over the whole of South China Sea, a key global maritime trade route, where there are differing claims over the ownership of a potentially oil-rich Spratly archipelago among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Vietnam and China also have separate long-standing dispute over the Paracels archipelago.

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