Chinese ships have intentionally crashed into Vietnamese vessels over the last few days when the latter are seeking to prevent a large oil rig from being set up by China in Vietnamese waters in the East Sea, according to Vietnamese officials.
Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of Vietnam's coast guard, told an international press conference in Hanoi on Wednesday that as many as 80 vessels, including seven military ships, have been deployed by the Chinese to guard its oil rig.
Thu said the Chinese vessels have repeatedly smashed into Vietnamese ships, causing large-scale damage, and even blasting the vessels with water cannons since the weekend.
Vietnamese officials told foreign reporters at the conference that six Vietnamese people have been injured so far during the confrontations but there has been no death.
A representative of the Vietnamese side said that Vietnam did not deploy any military vessel to the scene.
According to Thu, Chinese ship number 3411 purposefully smashed into Vietnamese boat number CSB8003 on May 7.
The Chinese side also deployed aircraft number 8321 to fly over the CSB8003 to threaten the Vietnamese in their own waters.
At 8:30 am on May 4, Chinese boat number 44103 intentionally crashed into the back of Vietnamese coast guard boat number CSB2012.
At 8:10 am on May 3, Chinese ship number 44044 running at high speed slammed into the right side of Vietnamese coast guard boat number CSB4033 at a location about ten nautical miles away from the oil rig.
Though the 4033 vessel tried to avoid the hit, all of its glass windows were broken eventually.
The vice commander said eight Vietnamese boats in total have been hit, run into, pushed and blasted with water cannons by/from the Chinese boats during the past few days.
At today’s conference, Thu also showed footage provided by the Vietnamese fisheries surveillance force of a Vietnamese boat being besieged by five Chinese ships during a clash.
Video of Vietnam-China ship confrontation
China illegally deployed oil rig to Vietnam’s waters
On May 3, the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration released a maritime warning on its website, saying that China’s oil rig HD 981 began operating in a location of 15°29’58’’ North latitude and 111°12’06’’ East longitude in the East Sea on May 2 and will continue to operate until August 15, said Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Hai Binh.
In the warning, the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration also bans all vessels from entering the area where the rig is operating within a radius of three nautical miles.
The announced location of the drilling rig is totally within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam, 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, the spokesman said.
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh issued a demand that China move its oil rig and escort vessels from Vietnamese waters in the East Sea immediately during a phone call with the Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi on the afternoon of May 6.
“Vietnam cannot accept and resolutely opposes China’s act, and demands that China move the drilling rig and escort vessels out of the area before holding talks to resolve differences around the issue,” Minh said.
In yesterday’s talks, Deputy PM Minh, who is also the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, stressed that China’s unilateral bringing of the rig and a large number of vessels, including military ships, to the above location is illegal and against international law and practice.
This act by China has seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and its sovereign right and jurisdiction over the Southeast Asian country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, Minh said, adding that the act also hurts the Vietnamese people.
Vietnam has full legal and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos and the sovereign right and jurisdiction over the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in accordance with regulations in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Vietnamese official said.
Vietnam will take all proper and necessary measures to protect its legitimate rights and interests, while at the same time showing goodwill to solve differences satisfactorily through negotiations, dialogues and other peaceful measures pursuant to the common perceptions of the two countries’ high-ranking leaders, Deputy PM Minh said.
Vietnam always observes the agreement on fundamental principles guiding the settlement of issues at sea in line with international law and regulations, particularly the UNCLOS, preventing the above issue from harming the political trust and cooperation between Vietnam and China.
On May 4, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a ministerial diplomatic note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, affirming that the activities of China’s drilling rig and vessels “have seriously infringed Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign right and jurisdiction over the country’s Hoang Sa archipelago, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
In the note, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that China remove the drilling rig, vessels, equipment and personnel Vietnam’s continental shelf immediately and not repeat similar actions in the future.
Vietnam highly values its friendship, cooperation and comprehensive strategic partnership with China and is therefore willing to settle all the disputes and differences at sea between the two countries through bilateral negotiation mechanisms based on international law, the UNCLOS, and the agreement on the fundamental principles for settling issues at sea between Vietnam and China, the note said.