The Chinese drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 that has been placed in Vietnam’s waters in the East Vietnam Sea since May 1 might have been moving on Sunday while its guarding ships have expanded their operation range, according to a Vietnam Television report.
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On Sunday, about 120 Chinese ships, as many as on Saturday, were arranged around the platform to protect it.
The facility has been planted at a location at 15°29’58’’ North latitude and 111°12’06’’ East longitude in the East Vietnam Sea, which lies well within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. However, a report from Vietnam Television reporters who were in an area 19 nautical miles south-southwest of the Chinese rig the same day said that a certain movement of the platform had been recorded.
But the information was not verified, according to a high-ranking official at the High Command of the Vietnam Coast Guard.
"We have heard about such a movement of the Chinese rig... but a number of Vietnamese ships that were nearest to the rig reported that they did not find any movement of the rig," he told Tuoi Tre (Youth Newspaper) on Sunday night.
The Vietnam Coast Guard are verifying this information, the official said, adding that “if the rig moves about 100 meters away from its existing location, it is hardly identified by bare eyes or even by equipment.”
The official, however, said, “Video clips filmed in previous days clearly show the drill of the rig plunged into the seabed, but today [May 25] we no longer see the drill.” Meanwhile, the Chinese ships, including coast guard boats, cargo ships, tugboats and a warship, that are guarding the rig, have been broadening their scope of protection to be nearer to Vietnamese vessels, the department said. Over the past few days, these Chinese ships have approached to threaten Vietnamese vessels when the latter entered an area 10-12 nautical miles, rather than only 4-5 nautical in previous days, Vietnamese Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department said. Along with these ships, China yesterday deployed about 50 large iron-covered fishing boats that were arranged a few dozen of meters apart, creating a “fence” stretching about one nautical mile to prevent Vietnamese vessels from approaching the rig. As the Chinese ships have been arranged nearer to Vietnamese vessels, the local ships had to try more to avoid being rammed or attacked with water cannons by the foreign ones, the department said.
Unlike in previouss days, no Chinese aircraft was seen above the waters yesterday, it added. Since being deployed in the Vietnamese waters on May 1 to protect China’s illegal rig, Chinese ships have continuously crashed into or fired their water cannons at Vietnamese ships. Such attacks have so far injured 12 Vietnamese fisheries surveillance officers, including three on Saturday, and damaged many boats, the department reported. The Chinese rig remains in the Vietnamese waters, despite strong protests from Vietnam, which has repeatedly demanded that China withdraw its rig from the waters immediately.