China Oilfield Services Limited, the operator of the HYSY 981 rig currently deployed in the South China Sea, has completed the first stage of drilling in the area.
According to a statement by COSL, the rig, which attracted international attention after Vietnam accused China of deploying the rig on the Vietnamese continental shelf, will move to the next drilling location.
The drilling campaign in the area, which began on May 2, is expected to be completed in mid-August this year.
The Foreign Ministry of Vietnam held a press conference on May 23, during which they presented the “historical and jurisprudential evidence” underpinning their claim to the Xisha Islands, near which the HYSY 981 is currently deployed.
In response to the claims by Vietnam, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said: “I watched the press conference held by Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry last Friday. I find it absurd and ridiculous.”
“There is plenty historical evidence to show that the Xisha Islands, which was first discovered, named and explored by the Chinese people, is an integral part of China’s territory. The Chinese people are the indisputable owner of the Xisha Islands,” he said.
“As early as 2 century B.C., during the Han Dynasty, Chinese ships had sailed into the South China Sea and discovered the Xisha Islands. Since then, groups after groups of Chinese people came to the islands and carried out exploration activities. Historical records show that since the Tang and Song Dynasties, the Chinese had started fishing activities in the Xisha Islands. Patrols by the naval ships of the Northern Song Dynasty around the Xisha Islands indicate that China already exercised effective administration of those islands by that time. Guo Shoujing, a famous astronomer of the Yuan Dynasty, set up an astronomical observing site in the Xisha Islands, which is another proof that the Xisha Islands have always been within China’s territory,” Gang said.
Furthermore, Gang said that before mid 1970s, the Vietnamese side had publicly and officially acknowledged that the Xisha Islands belong to China.
“In 1956, leading officials of the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam made it clear to the charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam that the Xisha Islands are China’s. In 1958, the Chinese government announced that the territorial sea of the People’s Republic of China is 12 nautical miles wide, and explicitly pointed out that this rule applied to every inch of China’s territory, including the Xisha Islands. Ten days after the announcement, the then Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong sent a note to Premier Zhou Enlai and expressed that the Vietnamese government acknowledged and respected the Chinese government’s announcement on territorial sea. For a long time, the official documents, textbooks and maps of Vietnam showed that the Xisha Islands belong to China,” Gang added.
“However, after 1975, the Vietnamese side abandoned all its previous commitments and started to put forward sovereign claims to those islands. At last Friday’s press conference by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, remarks made by the Vietnamese side once again showed that this country bent history, denied facts, and went back on its words. This country has a low rating of credibility. I want to stress here for one more time that the resolve of the Chinese government and people in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unshakable,” Gang concluded.
Ever since the Chinese deployed the rig at the location near the contested Xisha Island, Vietnam has asked China to remove the rig.
According to the Vietnamese side, since May 1st 2014, China has deployed more than 130 ships, including military vessels and planes to guard the placement of the semi-submersible drilling rig at the location which is 80 nautical miles deep into the Vietnamese exclusive economic zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS).
“This gravely violates the international law and the Declaration on the Conducts of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), to which China is also a signatory. The acts by China have been directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea,“ Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said last week.