Indonesia navy denies wounding 4 Vietnam fishermen in clash

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's navy has disputed reports that four Vietnamese fishermen were wounded in a weekend incident that was the second clash between the two countries in the South China Sea in two months.

Navy spokesman Gig Jonias Mozes Sipasulta said a warship fired a warning shot when two Vietnamese boats that were intercepted four nautical miles inside Indonesian territory on Sunday sailed toward its bow.

In a statement released Monday evening, Sipasulta said reports of Vietnamese being shot were untrue. He said the two fishing vessels immediately left Indonesian waters after the KRI Wiratno-379 fired its warning shot.

According to Vietnam's Binh Din newspaper, which quoted boat captain Nguyen Thanh Ngoc, the Vietnamese vessels were within their country's sovereignty, about 100 nautical miles southeast of Con Dao island, when attacked by the Indonesian navy. Four Vietnamese were shot and wounded, two seriously, both who are now being treated in Ho Chi Minh city, according to the report.

Several Vietnamese fishing vessels escaped Indonesian interception in May following a show of force by Vietnam's coast guard in the South China Sea, where China's expansive territorial claims overlap with the waters of several Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, with more than 13,000 islands, has become increasingly assertive in defending its maritime territory and exclusive economic zone.

It has destroyed hundreds of foreign fishing vessels caught in its territory and earlier this month said it had renamed the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea.

Experts said that move was aimed at protecting its exclusive economic zone north of the Natuna island chain, which overlaps with China's nine-dash line that roughly demarcates its claim to the South China Sea.

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