Thursday, May 8, 2014, 15:12
Sea incident not clash: China Vice-Minister
By Agencies

 Sea incident not clash: China Vice-Minister
In this May 7, 2012 file photograph released by China's Xinhua News Agency, CNOOC 981, the first deep-water drilling rig developed in China, is pictured at 320 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea. (Photo / AP)

BEIJING - Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said on Thursday that China and Vietnam could resolve disputes at sea peacefully and that an incident between the countries earlier this week in a part of the disputed South China Sea was not a "clash".

Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in an area where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiralling in the region.

Cheng made the comments to reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Beijing.

China said on Wednesday that operation of its drilling rig 981 near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea is legal and urged Vietnam to stop disturbing China's exploration activities in its territorial waters.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks at a regular press conference.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China issued navigational notice about rig 981, which belongs to China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), on May 3, she said, adding that operation of the drilling rig is lawful in China's territorial waters.

She said Vietnamese harassment of Chinese companies conducting normal activities runs counter to international law and basic norms of international relations as well as China's sovereignty and administration rights.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi had a phone conversation with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on Tuesday, demanding that the Vietnamese side stop disturbing Chinese companies' normal work in the Xisha Islands.

The United States on Tuesday criticized China by calling its exploration activities "provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region."

Hua said the Xisha Islands are part of China's inherent territory and the activities of the Chinese companies in the Xisha Islands are within the mandate of China's sovereignty and administration, which have nothing to do with Vietnam and the US.

She said the US is in no position to make irresponsible remarks on China's affairs.