A motorcyclist rides past a propaganda billboard 
featuring Vietnam's determination to defend its coastal waters and islands.
A motorcyclist rides past a propaganda billboard featuring Vietnam's determination to defend its coastal waters and islands.

Decision to relocate the oil rig came after Vietnam accused a Chinese ship of sinking one of its boats

Beijing : Amid a verbal spat with Vietnam over sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea, China on Tuesday said it has moved the controversial oil rig, which escalated tensions between the two Communist nations, to a new location, reports PTI. China’s decision to relocate the oil rig in the disputed waters came after Vietnam accused a Chinese ship of ramming and sinking one of its fishing boats.

 The rig had moved to a new location, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. Qin said China Oilfield Services Limited (COSL) had completed the first phase of oil drilling and exploration off the controversial islands and has moved to another site for its second phase of work. The operation, carried out by the HYSY981 drilling platform managed by COSL, started on May 2 and is expected to be completed by mid-August, he said. It is not clear whether Beijing’s move would help bring down tensions with Vietnam.

But Vietnamese state media said the Chinese rig was still within what Hanoi considered its territory. Qin also refuted Vietnam’s charge that its boat was sunk by the Chinese vessel. “The Vietnamese fishing boat forcefully intruded into the caution area of China 981 drilling rig and rammed into the left side of the Chinese boat and capsized,” he said. The 10 crew members on board the Vietnamese boat have been rescued, he said.

“I want to stress that the direct cause of this incident is that the Vietnamese side insisted on disturbing the normal work of the Chinese side,” Qin said.

“Some countries fantasise that (China) will sit idly by while its interests and sovereignty are damaged,” he added. China urged Vietnam to “immediately stop the disturbance and damaging behaviour”.

Earlier the president of the Fisheries Association in Vietnam’s central port city of Da Nang, Tran Van Linh, said: “I call this an act of attempted murder because the Chinese sank a Vietnamese fishing boat and then ran away.”

“We vehemently protest this perverse, brutal and inhumane action by the Chinese side,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted him as saying.

The incident came after Vietnam and China clashed over Beijing’s attempts to deploy an oil rig close to the disputed islands in the South China Sea on May 1. The naval vessels of the two countries rammed into each other hundreds of times as Vietnam demanded China to move the rig out of the location.

The fracas resulted in anti-China riots in which two Chinese were killed and over 100 injured and over 460 factories, mostly set up with Chinese investments, were destroyed.

K J M Varma    

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