Chinese vessels continue to block Vietnamese ships near oil rig site

Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ships as well as fishing boats refused to be cowed by Chinese aggression in the East Sea yesterday, persisting in asking that the illegally placed oil rig be moved out of Vietnamese waters.

Fishermen load vegetable and necessary good on boat in preparation for a fishing trip in Hoang Sa sea water. Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ships as well as fishing boats refused to be cowed by Chinese aggression in the East Sea yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Le Lam

The Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department said that China yesterday mobilised up to 137 ships, including five military ships, to protect oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 that it illegally stationed in Vietnamese waters.

At 06:40 and 08:13, Vietnam's law enforcement forces at sea also detected two Chinese reconnaissance aircraft operating at an altitude of 1,000m-2,000m in the west – southwest and the south – southwest areas, about 12-13 nautical miles from the rig's position.

Chinese ships constantly followed and obstructed the law enforcement operations of Vietnamese fisheries surveillance authorities, coming as close as 30m from Vietnamese vessels.

However, the Vietnamese fisheries surveillance vessels still retained their operations at about 10 – 12 nautical miles from the rig and conducted communication actions requesting the Chinese side to withdraw the rig and ships from Vietnamese waters.

The same day, about 54 Chinese fishing ships, supported by a coast guard ship (coded 46102), formed a line to block Vietnamese fishing boats from operating in their traditional fishing grounds, about 35-40 nautical miles from the rig.

However, the aggression could not stop Vietnamese fishermen from conducting their usual activities in the nation's sovereign waters.

Yesterday was a continuation of Chinese aggression in Vietnamese waters, including the firing of high-power water cannons and deliberate ramming of Vietnamese public-service and civil ships that has damaged many boats and injured many people on board.

Chinese ships have also continuously encircled, constrained and driven away Vietnamese fishing boats and even injured Vietnamese fishermen, threatening their lives.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has expressed concern over more Chinese rigs being placed in "disputed waters" in the East Sea.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press conference in Washington on June 20 that the US State Department did not have enough information about the placement of the rigs and would withhold judgment.

"If a rig were placed in disputed waters, that would be a concern," she told reporters.

She said US has "a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the region."

On the same day, US President Barack Obama and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the East Sea dispute and called for steps to avoid the escalation of tensions.

Illegal acts

The Vietnamese media can and should effectively expose China's territorial claims in the East Sea and its placement of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters as blatantly illegal acts, a senior official said on Saturday.

They should do so by clearly informing the world that there is plenty of historical and legal evidence of the nation's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes, said Dr. Tran Cong Truc, former chairman of the National Boundaries Committee.

Speaking to Viet Nam News on the sidelines of a roundtable conference held in the central city of Da Nang on China's illegal placement of oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 inside Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone since May 2, he said the media should also highlight the specific international laws that China is violating.

"Viet Nam's media and communications services should voice to the world the historical and legal evidence of the country's sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly), and the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in line with international law," he said.

He added that the world must know how China violates international law including the United Nations Charter, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

World opinion would be a powerful weapon in forcing China to withdraw the oil rig from Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, he said.

Dr. Gerhard Will of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs said the crisis in the South China Sea (East Sea) was rooted in natural resources including gas, oil and fishing.

He said it was very important to recognise that the crisis in the East Sea involving China and other countries in the region was one involving economic interests. It was likely to be a long-standing conflict in the region needing "different courses" for resolution, he added.

Daniel Schaeffer, an expert with France's Asia Research Centre, warned that China would deploy more oil rigs and its submarine fleet to protect the rigs in the East Sea.

Chairing the roundtable yesterday, Dr. Nguyen Hung Son said China's illegal placement the oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnamese waters, its deployment of a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships, coast guards vessels and aircraft gave the lie to its professed "good neighbour and friendship" policy.

"China's armed vessels aggressively and consistently fired high-power water cannons at and intentionally rammed Vietnamese public service and civil ships. China's aggression in Vietnamese seas has raised serious concern among neighbouring countries, the US, Japan and Australia," Son said.

On May 26, Chinese ship 11209 sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel while it was operating normally in its traditional fishing grounds near Viet Nam's Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

The Chinese ship even callously blocked all efforts to save the vessel by Vietnamese fishing trawlers in the area.

On Saturday, international scholars and domestic historical researchers visited the exhibition titled "Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagos – an inseparable part of Viet Nam" at the Da Nang Museum before inspecting the wreck of the sunken vessel and meeting with its owner and crew.

All the scholars then signed on a map of Viet Nam that includes Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, affirming that the two archipelagoes belong to Viet Nam as the country has exercised its sovereignty since the 17th century and has historical and legal evidence to back its claim.

The exhibition displayed several collections of artefacts and documents that attest to Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes.

Tran Duc Anh Son, deputy director of the city's Institute for Socio-Economic Development, said: "As many as 100 maps have been published between 1826 and 1980, of which 10 clearly show that Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) belong to Viet Nam."

"Of this map collection, 70 indicate that the frontier of Southern China is Hainan island and 10 maps indicate that the Paracel archipelago belongs to Viet Nam," he said.

He said further evidence can be found in two Postal Atlas Maps of China books published by the Directorate General of Posts, Ministry of Transportation of the Republic of China in 1919 (consisting of 49 maps) and in 1933 (29 maps) and one Atlas of the Chinese Empire, published by the China Inland Mission in 1909 (23 maps).

None of the three books list the Paracels and Spratlys in the maps and index pages, he noted.

Furthermore, the Am Linh Pagoda, a place of worship for seamen dispatched to the Paracel Islands during the reign of Nguyen Dynasty, has been standing since the 17th century on Ly Son Island, just 30km offshore Quang Ngai Province, he added.

Vietnamnews

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