China has dispatched fighter jets to join the group of vessels tasked with guarding oil rig HD 981 illegally planted in Vietnam’s waters, infringing the Southeast Asian country’s sea and airspace sovereignty, Colonel Ngo Ngoc Thu, Vice Commander and Chief of Staff of Vietnam's Coast Guard, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the Vietnamese Coast Guard discovered two groups of Chinese military aircraft flying above Vietnamese ships, which have been trying to prevent the oil rig from illicitly drilling in Vietnamese waters, at a height of 800 to 1000 meters, according to Thu.
Among them were a team of fighter jets and a Chinese military aircraft bearing number 9401 flying over Vietnamese ship CSB 8003, the vice commander said.
On Saturday, the Chinese expanded the radius of the protecting zone for the drilling platform to 10-15 nautical miles from the previous 5-7 nautical miles on Thursday, with civilian and law enforcement vessels deployed for the protection operations, he added.
These vessels are assigned to stop all Vietnamese ships from approaching the oil rig by blocking the ships and firing large-capacity water cannons at the Vietnamese watercrafts, the official elaborated.
So far, China has used three military vessels including missile guardian ships to block Vietnamese Coast Guard ships from accessing the drilling rig that has illegitimately operated in Vietnamese waters in the East Vietnam Sea since early this month.
The Vietnamese Coast Guard has continued to use loudspeakers to protest the Chinese acts and request China to remove the oil rig and their escort vessels from Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, Vice Commander Thu said.
The view of the Coast Guard is to restrain in order not to escalate the already tense situation, he said, further explaining that all this is to limit confrontations and avoid causing damage to the Vietnamese ships as well as casualties for the Vietnamese side.
Colonel Thu also conveyed gratitude to Vietnamese people – both at home and abroad – and international friends who have shared and expressed admiration for the courage and determination of the Vietnamese Coast Guard in protecting national sovereignty.
China has illegitimately operated the oil rig in a location of 15°29’58’’ North latitude and 111°12’06’’ East longitude in Vietnamese waters in the East Vietnam Sea since May 1, and deployed as many as 80 vessels including warships to guard the drilling platform.
This location is completely within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, about 119 nautical miles (221 km) from Ly Son Island off the central Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai and 18 nautical miles south of Tri Ton Island of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, according to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Hai Binh.
Many of the Chinese vessels intentionally crashed into Vietnamese ships when they were requested by the Vietnamese side to leave the waters, the Vietnamese Coast Guard announced at an international press conference in Hanoi on May 7.
To date, nine Vietnamese fisheries surveillance officers have been injured in such attacks by the Chinese ships.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said at a Southeast Asian summit in Myanmar on Sunday that China is threatening peace, stability, and freedom of navigation by illegally deploying the oil rig to Vietnam’s waters.
“This extremely dangerous action has been directly endangering peace, stability, security, and marine safety in the East Vietnam Sea,” the premier asserted.
The Vietnamese prime minister also called for Southeast Asian nations, countries around the world, and international individuals and organizations to continue protesting China’s acts as well as supporting Vietnam’s legal stance in relation to the current developments in the East Vietnam Sea.