China announced Thursday it has brought the deepwater oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 back to the waters near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands.
The location of the Chinese flagged deepwater oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 as announced by the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration on June 25. Photo credit: Google Maps
The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration said on its website the oil rig is located at 17 degrees 03.75 minutes north latitude (17-03.75N) and 109 degrees 59.05 minutes east longitude (109-59.05E).
The location is in waters at the south of the Gulf of Tonkin and northwest of the Paracels.
The announcement said the rig would explore for oil and gas until August 20.
It asked all vessels traveling in the waters near the rig to stay at least 2,000 meters away to ensure safety for its exploration activities.
A Vietnamese Coast Guard source said they would "make announcements" if the oil rig's activities violate Vietnam's sovereignty.
Some sources said the oil rig had actually turned up in the northern waters of the East Sea early this month.
Dr Tran Cong Truc, former head of the Government Border Committee, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that if the information provided by China is true, the oil rig is currently in an overlapping zone at the mouth of the Tonkin Gulf that Vietnam and China are negotiating for demarcation.
As the two countries have not reached an agreement, no side is allowed to act unilaterally, he said.
He said the placement of the oil rig violates international practices and the two countries’ commitments.
In May 2014 China illegally deployed an oil rig in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and the accompanying Chinese ships repeatedly rammed Vietnamese law enforcement vessels.
China’s aggression led to a prolonged stand-off between ships belonging to the two countries and widespread protests and rioting in Vietnam.
On May 27 China withdrew the rig from Vietnamese waters.