China has deployed its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil drilling rig to the East Vietnam Sea again for oil and gas exploration, after removing it from the sea nearly a year ago, the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) announced on Thursday. The platform is now located at 17°03'75’' North latitude and 109°59’05’’ East longitude, in an area west-northwest of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago and south of the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin, according to the MSA. The rig will conduct oil and gas exploration activities from June 25 to August 20, 2015, the MSA said. The administration also requested vessels traveling in the waters to stay 2,000 meters or farther away from the platform to ensure the safety of the facility’s operations. A source told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the same oil rig appeared in the northern area of the East Vietnam Sea early this month.
A notice of the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration about the operation of China's Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil drilling rig, which was planted in the East Vietnam Sea on June 25, 2015.
Vietnam’s maritime law enforcement forces have since kept a close watch on the rig’s movement, the source said. Last year, Beijing illegally planted the same rig 80 miles deep into Vietnam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone from early May to July 16, despite strong protests from Hanoi as well as the international community.The rig was escorted by over 100 vessels, including warships, along with many planes, including fighter jets. These Chinese ships repeatedly rammed and fired water cannons at Vietnam’s coast guard boats and fisheries surveillance ships that were trying to ask the rig and its escort ships to leave Vietnamese waters.
The encroaching ships also attacked Vietnamese fishing boats in the same way. Such attacks injured 15 fisheries surveillance officers together with two fishermen, as well as damaged 27 boats belonging to Vietnam’s marine law enforcement and Coast Guard forces, and seven fishing boats.