HANOI - NINE Vietnamese fishermen whose one-month detainment heated China-Vietnam relations are back on the same islands at the heart of the dispute - this time after a Chinese patrol boat rescued them in stormy seas.

China released the men on Monday and they started their journey home despite warnings of a tropical weather system.

Vietnamese state media reported the fishermen navigated their battered vessel with a sail made from blankets and mosquito nets.

The nine had been detained near the disputed Paracel islands in the South China Sea. China claimed explosives were on the boat, but Vietnam said it only had fishing equipment.

Vietnamese media reported on Saturday both countries were working to get the men home.

9 Vietnamese fishermen safe