Tags: Obama | China | Vietnam

U.S. Criticizes Chinese Oil Rig Move amid Vietnam Protests

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 04:57 PM

HONG KONG - The United States on Tuesday sharply criticized the movement of a huge Chinese oil rig that Vietnam claims has entered its waters, the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness to raise alarm among smaller countries in the region.

The Vietnamese accusation came days after President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline U.S. commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines, which are themselves locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

Vietnam has condemned the operation of the deep-water drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea and demanded that China's state-run oil company to remove it.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters: "Given the recent history of tensions in the South China Sea, China's decision to operate its oil rig in disputed waters is provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region."

Vietnam also protested the move.

"Vietnam cannot accept this, and resolutely protests this action by China," the foreign ministry said on its website, summarizing comments by Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, who spoke to his Chinese counterpart by telephone on Tuesday.

"We request China pulls out the ... rig and all vessels from this area ... Vietnam will take all suitable and necessary measures to protect our legitimate rights and interests."

A ministry official said the two countries had been in direct talks about the issue since Sunday, but he declined to say how China had responded to Vietnam's requests. China has said the rig is operating completely within its waters.

Daniel Russel, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the United States is looking into the matter and urged caution from all sides.

"We believe that it is critically important for each of the claimant countries to exercise care and restraint," he told Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong ahead of a previously scheduled trip to Hanoi on Wednesday.

"The global economy is too fragile and regional stability is too important to be put at risk over short term economic advantage."

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan.

 

Its claims coincide with growing diplomatic and military influence in the region and have raised fears of possible conflict.

On Sunday, Vietnam said the coordinates of the rig put it in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast.

But, like other Asian nations involved in territorial disputes with China, Vietnam appears to have limited options when dealing with the emerging superpower.

The Philippines said last month that the United States had a treaty obligation to help in case of an attack on its territory or armed forces in the South China Sea.

 

China routinely sends patrols into the South China Sea, mostly involving the coast guard and civilian maritime protection force rather than the navy.

But the positioning of such a large structure in disputed waters was seen by some analysts as a significant escalation in the dispute.

Singapore-based South China Sea expert Ian Storey said the rig movement risked a "potentially very dangerous scenario."

"There have been standoffs with survey ships in the past, but this is something new," said Storey of the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

"There's been a great deal of speculation about how China would use this expensive new rig and it seems we now have the answer. It puts Vietnam in a very difficult position."

"They will have to respond to a challenge to their sovereignty, and when they do, China will be sure to make a counter move, so we are in a situation where a potentially very dangerous scenario could unfold."

 

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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HONG KONG - The United States on Tuesday sharply criticized the movement of a huge Chinese oil rig that Vietnam claims has entered its waters, the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness to raise alarm among smaller countries in the region.
Obama, China, Vietnam
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2014-57-06
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 04:57 PM
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