U.S. Investigates Chinese Rig Move, Vietnam Complaints

Joseph Keefe
Tuesday, May 06, 2014

United States urges caution in China/Vietnam dispute; both countries claim waters where structure located.China moves causing alarm among smaller regional players

The United States said on Tuesday it was investigating the movement of a huge Chinese oil rig that Vietnam says has entered its waters, the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness to raise alarm among smaller countries in the region.

The Vietnamese accusation came days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines who are themselves locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

Vietnam has condemned the operation of the deepwater drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea and told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China said the rig was operating completely within its waters.

Daniel Russel, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the United States was looking into the matter, but urged caution from all sides.

"We believe that it is critically important for each of the claimant countries to exercise care and restraint," he told Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong ahead of a previously scheduled trip to Hanoi on Wednesday.

"The global economy is too fragile and regional stability is too important to be put at risk over short term economic advantage."

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan.

EXCLUSION ZONE

Its claims coincide with growing diplomatic and military influence in the region and have raised fears of possible conflict.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China (MSAC) announced on its website on Saturday that all vessels should keep one mile (1.6 km) away from the rig, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981. It expanded that to three miles on Monday.

The $1 billion rig is owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company and it had been drilling south of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman objected to the Chinese announcement, saying the coordinates of the oil rig put it in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast.

The spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said in a statement Vietnam "resolutely opposed" the Chinese company's drilling.

But, like other Asian nations involved in territorial disputes with China, Vietnam appears to have limited options when dealing with the emerging superpower.

The Philippines said last month that the United States had a treaty obligation to help in case of an attack on its territory or armed forces in the South China Sea, although Obama did not say categorically that Washington would do so.

In 1992, Vietnam sent naval vessels into an area where China signed a contract with a U.S. firm to develop oil and gas in what it said were its waters.

"From 1992 until now, I haven't seen any action from Vietnam stronger than that," said a Vietnamese academic who specializes in South China Sea affairs.

"...My guess is either this action from China is to send a message to the United States after Obama's Asia visit, or to direct the community to this topic to distract them from the terror in Xinjiang."

China's nervousness about Islamist militancy has grown since a car burst into flames on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October and 29 people were stabbed to death in March in the southwestern city of Kunming.

The government blamed militants from the far-western region of Xinjiang for both attacks.

China routinely sends patrols into the South China Sea, mostly involving the coast guard and civilian maritime protection force rather than the navy.

But the positioning of such a large structure in disputed waters was seen by some analysts as a significant escalation in the dispute.

Singapore-based South China Sea expert Ian Storey said the rig movement risked a "potentially very dangerous scenario".

"There have been standoffs with survey ships in the past, but this is something new," said Storey of the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

"There's been a great deal of speculation about how China would use this expensive new rig and it seems we now have the answer. It puts Vietnam in a very difficult position.

"They will have to respond to a challenge to their sovereignty, and when they do, China will be sure to make a counter move, so we are in a situation where a potentially very dangerous scenario could unfold."

China's Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that China should show a "firm attitude" towards Vietnam.

"China follows a moderate policy. But no country can always show a smiling face to the world. China shouldn't be angered easily, but if its interests are infringed upon, a strong retaliatory move should be expected," it said.


By Greg Torode

Maritime Reporter May 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Legal

Myanmar Finds 200 Bangladeshis in Offshore Boat

Myanmar's navy found a boat carrying more than 200 Bangladeshis, the government said on Friday, after the military chief said some migrants landing in Malaysia

Two ASC Kalmar Cranes for DP World Brisbane

Kalmar, part of Cargotec, has received an order from DP World Australia to deliver two new Kalmar automatic stacking cranes (ASCs) for its semi-automated terminal in Brisbane.

DP World Extends Title Sponsorship Until 2020

Dubai is set to remain at the epicenter of golf on The European Tour for the foreseeable future after global port operator DP World announced today that it will

Energy

US Funding for Air Emissions/Alternative Energy Projects

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that up to $1.3 million in Federal funding is now available through cooperative agreements for projects supporting

US Oil Platform on Fire in Gulf Of Mexico

An oil platform caught fire and was evacuated in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore Louisiana in the early hours of Friday, though no injuries were reported, the U.

SoCal Beach Cleanup Could Take Months

The U.S. Coast Guard captain overseeing cleanup of oil spilled from a pipeline rupture that closed two California state beaches and fouled offshore waters near

Maritime Security

MPC Honors Crowley for Tank Vessel Safety

Crowley Maritime Corporation’s petroleum services division has once again been honored by Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC) with its annual Elite Vessel Award, which

Myanmar Finds 200 Bangladeshis in Offshore Boat

Myanmar's navy found a boat carrying more than 200 Bangladeshis, the government said on Friday, after the military chief said some migrants landing in Malaysia

HMAS Anzac Visits Portsmouth, UK

The Royal Australian Navy’s helicopter frigate HMAS Anzac has arrived in Portsmouth, England, as part of her NORTHERN TRIDENT 2015 deployment.   Anzac departed Sydney in March 2015,

Maritime Safety

US Oil Platform on Fire in Gulf Of Mexico

An oil platform caught fire and was evacuated in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore Louisiana in the early hours of Friday, though no injuries were reported, the U.

Two Rescued from Vessel Aground North of Cuba

Two American sailors whose vessel ran aground approximately 25 miles north of Gibara, Cuba, were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Friday. Watchstanders

Myanmar Finds 200 Bangladeshis in Offshore Boat

Myanmar's navy found a boat carrying more than 200 Bangladeshis, the government said on Friday, after the military chief said some migrants landing in Malaysia

Government Update

US Funding for Air Emissions/Alternative Energy Projects

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that up to $1.3 million in Federal funding is now available through cooperative agreements for projects supporting

WCI Applauds Increased USACE Funding

Today WCI applauded the leadership of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Senate Energy & Water Development (E&WD) Appropriations Subcommittee

SoCal Beach Cleanup Could Take Months

The U.S. Coast Guard captain overseeing cleanup of oil spilled from a pipeline rupture that closed two California state beaches and fouled offshore waters near

Offshore Energy

US Oil Platform on Fire in Gulf Of Mexico

An oil platform caught fire and was evacuated in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore Louisiana in the early hours of Friday, though no injuries were reported, the U.

Protea to Launch Heavy-Lift Cranes at Nor-Shipping

Protea, a global manufacturer of offshore handling equipment, will launch two types of heavy lift cranes at Nor-Shipping 2015 in Oslo, June 2-5. Tomasz Paszkiewicz,

Two Hurt in Petrobras Platform Accident; Output Halted

Brazil's state-led oil company Petrobras was forced to stop output at its P-56 offshore oil production ship on Wednesday in the Marlim Sul field after an explosion

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Salvage Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2151 sec (5 req/sec)