China’s deployment of an oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea has driven protests in Vietnam in which several foreign factories have been set on fire by protesters.
According to Vietnamese media reports, thousands of workers in the country’s southern parts are staging violent anti-China protests, after Beijing earlier this month deployed the HYSY 981 semi-submersible drilling rig in what Vietnam claims are the Vietnamese territorial waters.
As much as 15 factories owned or run by Chinese expatriates have been reported attacked and set on fire in protests that started on Monday.
The protesters want China to remove the drilling rig from the disputed offshore area.
Also, there are reports of various foreign companies displaying their flags outside their premises to prove they are not Chinese, as the rioters have been reported to have mistakenly attacked a Taiwanese firm.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Y. L. Lin asked the Vietnamese government do its utmost to stabilize the situation and restore order. He asked Vietnam to protect the safety of Taiwanese businessmen in Vietnam.
He also called the rioters to exercise restraint and refrain from irrationally damaging the manufacturing facilities of Taiwan companies and imperiling Taiwan businesspeople in Vietnam.
“Such actions would dampen the interest of Taiwan investors in Vietnam and harm the longstanding friendship between the people of the ROC and Vietnam,” David Y. L. Lin said.
Normal operations for China
China’s stance is that Xisha Islands, near which the rig has been deployed since the beginning of the month, are China’s inherent territory. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was closely monitoring the protests in Vietnam.
“The Chinese enterprise is carrying out normal operations in China’s territorial sea… We have asked the Vietnamese side to take all measures necessary to safeguard the security and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and organizations in Vietnam,” Hua Chunying, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
China’s embassy in Hanoi advised Chinese companies and workers in Vietnam to take security precautions and avoid unnecessary trips outdoors.
China: U.S. should watch its words
The US Secretary of State John Kerry held a phone conversation with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday asking China to stop taking provocative actions.
Commenting on Kerry’s remarks China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “It is true that provocative actions have been seen in the South China Sea recently. But they are not taken by China. It is nothing but the wrong words and actions made by the US side on maritime issues that have emboldened some countries to take provocative actions. We would like the US side to think hard on this: if they really want the Pacific region to be pacific, what kind of role should they play? What actions should they take to truly contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region?”
According to a statement of the China’s Foreign Ministry’s website Wang Yi “urged the US to treat these issues with objectivity and fairness, live up to its commitment, watch its words and actions, and avoid emboldening relevant parties’ provocative actions.”
EU calls for cooperation
The European Union has called for both China and Vietnam to seek peaceful and cooperative solutions in accordance with international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to continue ensuring safety and freedom of navigation.
The spokesperson of the EU High Representative last week said: “We are concerned about recent incidents involving China and Vietnam relating to the movements of the Chinese oil rig HD981. In particular, the EU is concerned that unilateral actions could affect the security environment in the region, as evidenced by reports about the recent collision of Vietnamese and Chinese vessels.”
The spokesperson called on the parties to undertake de‐escalating measures and refrain from any unilateral action which would be detrimental to peace and stability in the region.
The rig in question, HYSY 981, is the first of its kind designed and manufactured in China. It has a maximum operating water depth of 3,000 meters and is capable of drilling 10,000 meters below the seabed. The rig drilled its first deepwater well in Liwan 6-1 district in the South China Sea in May 2012. China is the world’s most populous country with a fast-growing economy that has led it to be the largest energy consumer and producer in the world. China’s aim is to extract as much of its hydrocarbons reserves as possible in order to reduce oil imports.
Offshore Energy Today Staff; May 14, 2014