Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 16:04
China flays Vietnamese 'harassment' of ship
By Reuters

 China flays Vietnamese 'harassment' of ship
Security personnel stand next to snowmen at the entrance of China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) office tower in Beijing, in this March 20, 2013 file photograph. (Photo / Reuters)

HONG KONG - China has warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its territorial water.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi told Vietnam's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, that Chinese firms operating in the Xisha Islands, are within the mandate of China's sovereignty and should not be subject to interference, according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry's website late on Tuesday.

Vietnamese harassment of Chinese companies conducting normal activities violated China's sovereignty and administration rights, Yang, the country's top diplomat, said in a telephone call to Minh.

A Vietnamese government official says Vietnamese navy and coast guard vessels are trying to prevent the Chinese oil rig from establishing a fixed position and that vessels from the two countries have collided. The official said no ammunition had been fired and there were no reports for injuries.

Earlier, two foreign diplomats said Vietnam dispatched up to 29 ships to the area near the oil rig.

Daniel Russel, Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the United States was looking into the oil rig matter, but urged caution from all sides.

"We believe that it is critically important for each of the claimant countries to exercise care and restraint," he told Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong ahead of a previously scheduled trip to Hanoi on Wednesday.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Chinese drilling in the South China Sea has nothing to do with the United States, and the country has no right to make irresponsible remarks about China's sovereign rights.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China (MSAC) announced on its website on Saturday that all vessels should keep 1.6 km away from the rig, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981. It expanded that to three miles on Monday.

The US$1 billion rig is owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company and it had been drilling south of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman objected to the Chinese announcement, saying the coordinates of the oil rig put it in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast.

The spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said in a statement Vietnam "resolutely opposed" the Chinese company's drilling.

China routinely sends patrols into the South China Sea, mostly involving the coast guard and civilian maritime protection force rather than the navy.