Chinese boats that are protecting China’s illegal oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 in Vietnam’s waters expanded Monday their ranges of operation around the platform to 18 nautical miles, the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG) said the same day. The new range is about twice of the previous scope of 8-10 nautical miles, VCG said. Along with expanding their range, Chinese vessels, including military ones, continued to intimidate Vietnamese ships that were trying to enter as near as possible to the illicit rig to demand that the platform and its escort ships leave the Vietnamese waters. Yesterday morning, Vietnam Coast Guard boat CSB 2016 was heading towards the rig when it was pursued by a Chinese boat which tried to approach the local vessel to fire water cannons at it. After being chased for a distance of three nautical miles, vessel CSB 2016 managed to get rid of its rival. The same Vietnamese boat suffered heavy damage after being rammed by Chinese coast guard vessel 46105 on June 1, but the crew of the local ship managed to repair it the same day. Along with vessel CSB 2016, many Vietnamese fisheries surveillance boats also faced continuous threats from Chinese ships on Monday.
One of such threats occurred at 1:00 pm when three Chinese coast guard ships surrounded and attempted to fire their water cannons at Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ship 635. At the same time, Chinese coast guard boat 46101 at a distance of only ten meters got close to a Vietnamese counterpart, CSB 2015, for about an hour. By expanding the range of the guarding vessels, China may continue to relocate its illegal rig in a few days to come, some naval officers on board vessel CSB 2016 said. According to a report of the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department, China increased spying activities yesterday by using five fighter jets above the area where the rig is located. Yesterday 120 Chinese vessels were arranged in the waters, including four military ships, about 38-40 coast guard boats, 15-20 tugboats, 10-14 transport vessels, and 42-47 fishing boats. As previously reported, China has had the oil rig stationed in the Vietnamese waters in the East Vietnam Sea since May 1 and has maintained the platform there, despite strong protests from Vietnam, which has repeatedly demanded that China withdraw its rig from the sea waters immediately. The rig has been relocated two times since that date and it is now located at 15°33’22’’ North latitude and 111°34’23’’ East longitude, still in the Vietnamese waters.