BEIJING – China said Thursday it was moving a second oil rig closer to the Vietnamese coast in disputed waters, near where ships from the two countries have been ramming each other in a tense confrontation.
The 600-meter-long rig was being towed southeast of its current position south of Hainan Island and would be in its new location closer to Vietnam by Friday, the Maritime Safety Administration said in a notice on its website. It asked vessels in the area to give it a wide berth.
Both installations will be inside what Vietnam claims as its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.
The shifting of the rig came as officials from both sides said they made no progress in talks Wednesday over the deployment of another Chinese rig on May 1 that sparked the current standoff. Each country accuses the other of violating its territorial rights and instigating ramming of the other’s ships around the rig.
The first rig’s deployment also triggered anti-China demonstrations across Vietnam that led to attacks on hundreds of factories believed to employ Chinese workers, five of whom were killed and hundreds more injured. Many of the factories were built and run by investors from Taiwan, which has nothing to do with the current dispute.
Both rigs lie south of China’s Hainan province near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands that also are claimed by Vietnam. China’s military expelled Vietnamese troops from two of the islands in the chain in 1974, and in 1988 Beijing also used force to kick Vietnam out of Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands to the east.
The border between China and Vietnam in the area has never been properly demarcated.
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is thought to be rich in natural resources and is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, bringing it into disputes with neighbors that also include the Philippines, a U.S. ally.