China Never To Send Military To Oil Rig Spat With Vietnam
A Chinese official said on Friday that China will never send military forces to the scene of an increasingly ugly spat with Vietnam over an oil rig in the South China Sea and accused Hanoi of trying to force an international lawsuit.
A senior U.S. official in Washington dismissed the Chinese statement as "patently ridiculous" and said Beijing had been using air force and navy as well as coastguard assets "to intimidate others."
Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, including coastguard vessels, have squared off around the rig despite a series of collisions after the Chinese platform was towed into disputed waters in early May.
Vietnam has accused China of sending six warships, but Yi Xianliang, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, said that Beijing had never sent military forces.
"I can tell you very clearly that from May 2 to today, including to when the (drilling) operations are complete, we have never, are not and will never send military forces. Because we are carrying out normal, civilian, commercial activities," he told a news conference.
"What I can tell you is that this is on a maritime route and at some periods there have been certain Chinese military ships coming back from the south but these have been far away" from where the standoff round the rig has been taking place, Yi added.
The Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig is drilling between the Paracel Islands and the Vietnamese coast. Vietnam has said the rig is in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, while China says it is operating within its waters.
"China has maintained a robust and consistent military presence near the oil rig since its placement on May 2, including flying helicopters and planes over and around the rig. There are currently multiple military vessels in the vicinity of the rig," he said.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told Reuters last month his government was considering various "defence options" against China, including legal action, a move the United States has said it would support.
"I know that certain people in Vietnam, perhaps because they are trying to find another way to resolve the problem, are creating certain conditions. The so-called other route is the so-called lawsuit way," he said.
"...If this spreading of rumours or distorting of facts is to achieve the aim of lodging a lawsuit, then I have to say that this is a miscalculation."
The rig's deployment triggered anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month that killed at least four workers.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)