Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Beijing has started to remove the South China Sea oil rig that sparked a serious diplomatic row with Hanoi which degenerated into targeted attacks by Vietnamese nationalists against foreign multinationals.
The rig, located in disputed waters between the two Asia-Pacific nations, has "finished exploration" and will be moved. This is confirmed by an official press release from the China National Petroleum Corp (CNCP), which will now proceed to analyze the data collected over two and a half months of activity.
Tensions between Vietnam and China were sparked by China's decision to place platform for oil exploration in the disputed waters around the Paracel Islands last May 1. Beijing followed this up by sending naval ships, fighter jets and helicopters off the east coast of Vietnam to patrol the area.
This exacerbated nationalist sentiments in a large portion
of the Vietnamese population, which responded with violent
protests including assaults and arson, leading to two deaths and more
than 140 wounded. The United States also condemned the Chinese government's actions,
calling it "provocative" and "aggressive"; it also led to repeated
clashes between the both Vietnamese and Chinese Navies, with ramming maneuvers and
exchanges of gunfire.
Vietnamese coast guard sources and a group of local fishermen, confirm that the platform is being moved towards the Chinese island of Hainan. The removal operations began late yesterday evening. Signs of oil and gas were found in the operation," Xinhua quoted the CNPC statement as saying, and CNPC "will assess the data collected and decide on the next step". Moreover, in recent weeks, the Chinese government announced its intention to place three more oil rigs in disputed waters, provoking anger among Hanoi nationalists.
Vietnam and the Philippines have been increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas. The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line is both "illegal" and "irrational". Anyone with a hegemonic sway over the region would have a strategic advantage, in terms of seabed (oil and gas) development, but also in trade since two thirds of the world's maritime traffic goes through it.