Vietnam protests China's oil rig movement in South China Sea
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Vietnam on Monday slammed China for “illegally” deploying a deep-water drilling rig into disputed waters of the South China Sea over the weekend.
Beijing’s move was the latest in a series of provocative actions aimed at asserting its sovereignty in potentially oil and gas-rich waters that have raised tensions with Vietnam, the Philippines and other claimants.
The $1 billion offshore oil rig called Haiyang Shiyou 981 is owned by the China’s state-run oil company, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and has been drilling south of Hong Kong.
The China Maritime Safety Administration posted a navigational warning on its website advising that the rig would be drilling in the South China Sea from May 4 to August 15, in an area close to the Paracel Islands, which are controlled by China but Vietnam claims as its own.
It also said all marine vessels would be prohibited from entering into a one mile radius of the rig.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry said the area where the rig was stationed lay within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“All foreign activities in Vietnam’s seas without Vietnam’s permission are illegal and invalid,” the ministry said in a statement. “Vietnam resolutely protests them.”
Beijing insists rig in ‘Chinese waters’
Vietnam’s state-owned oil company, PetroVietnam, demanded that the CNOOC “immediately stop all the illegal activities and withdraw the rig from Vietnamese waters.”
Asked about Vietnam’s objections, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the drilling was taking place in Chinese waters.
Many analysts believe China is embarking on a strategy of gradually pressing its claims in the water by seeing what it can get away with, believing that its much smaller neighbors will be unable or unwilling to stop them. Vietnam has accused Chinese ships of cutting cables to its exploration vessels and harassing fishermen, as has the Philippines.
Chinese assertiveness puts Vietnam’s authoritarian government in difficult position domestically because anger at China, an ideological ally, runs deep in the country. This is exploited by dissident movements, who accuse the government of being unwilling to speak out against Beijing.
Tran Cong Truc, the former head of a government committee overseeing the country’s border issues, said the latest Chinese move was especially provocative.
“This act by China is much more dangerous than previous actions such as cutting the exploration cable or fishing bans,” he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
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