South China Sea: Standoff Over Oil Rig Escalates, Vietnam Says China Rammed ShipsPosted: May 8, 2014
(Reuters) – Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region.
The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi said the collisions took place on Sunday and caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships. Six people suffered minor injuries, it said.
The standoff between China and Vietnam over an oil rig under construction in the South China Sea has escalated to dangerous levels, the New York Times reports…
…Whether purposely timed or not, Beijing has escalated its rhetoric and backed up words with action ever since President Obama’s tour of East Asia. ”It is increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent,”warned one editorial in China Daily as soon as President Obama returned to the U.S. ”Ganging up with its troublemaking allies, the U.S. is presenting itself as a security threat to China.” The editorial also called U.S. actions in East Asia ”malicious.”
“On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels,” said Tran Duy Hai, a Foreign Ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam’s national border committee.
Vietnamese naval vessels and Chinese ships collided Wednesday, a Vietnamese government official said, as Hanoi sought to prevent a Chinese oil rig from setting up in a disputed part of the South China Sea.
The official said no ammunition had been fired and there were no reports for injuries as a result of the standoff, the most serious in years between the two countries in the sea. If neither side step downs, some analysts said they feared full blown skirmishes could break out between the two navies in what has long been regarded as a possible global flashpoint.
“Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used,” he told a news conference in Hanoi. Six other ships were also hit, but not as badly, other officials said.
Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries are in the area where China has deployed the giant rig, Vietnamese officials have said.
“No shots have been fired yet,” said a Vietnamese navy official, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media. “Vietnam won’t fire unless China fires first.”
The two Communist nations have been trying to put aside border disputes and memories of a brief border war in 1979. Vietnam is usually careful about comments against China, with which it had bilateral trade surpassing $50 billion in 2013.
Still, Hanoi has strongly condemned the operation of the drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea, and told the owners, China’s state-run oil company CNOOC, to remove it.
The United States has also criticized the move.
The row comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies including Japan and the Philippines, both locked in territorial disputes with China.
Obama, promoting a strategic “pivot” towards the Asia-Pacific, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.
The United States is “strongly concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels in the disputed area,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington on Wednesday.
Psaki reiterated the U.S. view that China’s deployment of an oil rig was “provocative and unhelpful” to regional security….(more)
NGUYEN PHUONG LINH AND MICHAEL MARTINA (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Manuel Mogato in Manila, Charlie Zhu in Hong Kong and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Mohammad Zargham and David Gregorio)
- China accuses Vietnam of ramming its ships in South China Sea (theguardian.com)
- US urges restraint in Vietnam-China rig standoff (sfgate.com)
- China insists it has right to put rig off Vietnam (kansascity.com)
- U.S. urges both Vietnam, China to use restraint in their standoff (canadianbusiness.com)
- US urges restraint in Vietnam-China rig standoff (miamiherald.com)
- Vietnam dispatches 29 ships to intercept Chinese oil rig in South China Sea; standoff with Chinese ships (chinadailymail.com)
- U.S. ‘Concerned’ by China-Vietnam Tension (online.wsj.com)
- Vietnam and China face off in South China Sea (scooprocket.com)