Chinese Oil Rig Near Vietnam to Be Moved
By JANE PERLEZJULY 15, 2014
BEIJING — A Chinese energy company announced Wednesday that a giant oil rig that was deployed in disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam two months ago had completed its exploration work and would be moved.
The China National Petroleum Corporation, a state-owned company, said the billion-dollar rig, known as HD 981, would be relocated to an area around the Qiongdongnan basin, closer to Hainan Island, a southern province of China, and apparently in undisputed waters.
The arrival of the rig off the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea in early May worsened China’s relations with Vietnam, a neighbor, and became a sticking point in the increasing tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The announcement, released by Xinhua, the state-run news agency, came a day after President Obama called President Xi Jinping to talk about what the White House called the “important progress” at meetings between the two countries in Beijing last week, although they did not settle any differences.
There was no indication that the movement of the rig away from the disputed waters with Vietnam was related to the telephone call.
When the rig was first deployed close to the Paracels, claimed by both China and Vietnam, Chinese officials said it would remain in place until mid-August, the normal start of the typhoon season.
There was no explanation why the rig was leaving earlier, but the statement by the China National Petroleum Corporation said the operation was ending as planned. During exploration, the rig found “signs of oil and gas,” and the company planned to assess the data and decide on its next steps, the statement said.
The arrival of the rig — more than 40 stories tall and the size of a football field — prompted daily clashes at sea between Chinese vessels sent to protect it and Vietnamese boats that tried to pierce the perimeter of about 12 miles the Chinese had established around it.
Chinese Coast Guard vessels rammed smaller Vietnamese boats, and the Chinese used powerful water cannons to keep the Vietnamese vessels at bay.
Both sides also stationed naval vessels in the distance, and Chinese fighter jets flew over the rig from time to time. In Vietnam, anti-Chinese protests turned violent as two Chinese workers were killed and factories run by Taiwanese and South Korean companies were destroyed.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that the movement of the rig should not be seen as a retreat, emphasizing the position that the Paracel Islands were China’s territory and that the rig was operating in “undisputed coastal waters” of the islands.
China, though, could be moving the oil rig to ease relations with Vietnam, said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It could be a face-saving way to end the over two-month-long standoff with Vietnam,” she said.
The Voice of Vietnam, a state-run news agency, said Wednesday that Vietnamese law enforcement officials saw the rig moving away from its position on Tuesday evening. The agency added that the move may have occurred because of the approaching Typhoon Rammasun.
But an influential Vietnamese military official, Maj. Gen. Le Ma Luong, said the Chinese were backing down and were moving the rig because of the “strong reactions”of Vietnam. In an interview in PetroTimes, a Vietnamese state-run news outlet, the general said the typhoon was “just an excuse.”
Bree Feng contributed research.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/16/world/asia/chinese-oil-rig-near-vietnam-to-be-moved.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A18%22%7D