Vietnam Warns China About Redeployment Of Oil Rig In Disputed Waters — South China Sea Pumping Station Might Reignite Standoff?

Vietnam has issued a stern warning to China over the redeployment of an oil rig in disputed waters. The pumping station reinstalled in the South China Sea could reignite the tense standoff between the two communist countries.

The country has sternly asked China to dismantle the pumping station immediately. The issue is reminiscent of the 2014 standoff between the two communist neighbors. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Le Hai Binh, confirmed that the country has officially raised concerns with China over the movement of Haiyang Shiyou oil rig. Vietnam has further demanded that China cease the drilling activities and remove the offending oil rig.

“China has moved the HY-981 rig into an overlapping area of continental shelves between Vietnam’s central coast and China’s Hainan Island. Vietnam demands that China not conduct any drilling activities and withdraw Hai Duong 981 oil rig from this area. Vietnam reserves all its legal rights and interests in the area in accordance with international law.”

Hai Duong 981 is the Vietnamese name for the oil rig, and it currently sits off Vietnam’s central coast. Incidentally, this isn’t the first time China has attempted to resume drilling activities in the region. In fact, as early as May 2014, the country had deployed an oil rig in the very same place. After Vietnam’s strong insistence that the rig should be demolished, China grudgingly towed it away. Although the rig had been sitting in the South China sea for more than two months, it isn’t clear how much oil China managed to pump.

Vietnam Warns China About Redeployment Of Oil Rig In Disputed Waters
(Photo by Le Quang Nhat/ Getty Images)

During the time the offending rig was operational, there were intense anti-China riots in Vietnam. The riots had forced Beijing to evacuate thousands of Chinese nationals from Vietnam. China’s exploratory drilling in disputed waters near the Paracel Islands has always been viewed with suspicion by Hanoi. More than the pumping station, the clear act of provocation by the country has plunged bilateral relations to their lowest point in years, reported Fox News.

The offshore oil drilling station was swiftly deployed by China in the long-disputed area in the South China Sea, where the two countries’ continental shelves overlap. Since there has always been a conflict of interest in the region, the area remains to be clearly demarcated and has routinely been in the midst of controversies, which incidentally, are mostly sparked by China. Many experts strongly believe that the South China Sea hides vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Many nations have eyed the region for quite some time and it has been embroiled in multiple territorial disputes that have time and again raised tensions between the countries, reported New York Daily News.

Le Hai Binh added that a ministry representative had met with a Chinese official from the latter’s embassy in Hanoi. Interestingly, delegates from Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party are all set to begin a crucial meeting on Wednesday. The meeting will result in the election of new leaders for the country. Additionally, the delegates are expected to announce the country’s economic and foreign policy for the next five years, reported CNN.

Vietnam Warns China About Redeployment Of Oil Rig In Disputed Waters
(Photo by Images Vietnam News Agency / Getty Images)

China insists that the rig is operational in the “undisputed waters of China.” Attempting to downplay the incident, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, commented about the oil rig during a regular press briefing.

“To our knowledge, China’s Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling platform is working in totally indisputable waters under China’s jurisdiction. It is hoped that the Vietnamese side can view it calmly, work with China in the same direction and make joint efforts to properly handle the maritime issue.”

Technically speaking, the rig lies about 25 miles from an “assumed median line” between the two countries. Still, the rig is in “an overlapping area between the two continental shelves” of Vietnam and Hainan Island, China, which “has not yet been delimited,” reads the statement.

China has already caused a lot of controversy with the globally disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea. The oil rig is commonly perceived as yet another technique to establish a permanent presence in the region.

[Photo by Martin Bureau/Getty Images]