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China to restart drilling operations off Vietnamese coast

26 June 2015

The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) announced on June 25 that the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil drilling rig had been deployed to a site in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. The platform is now located in an area west-northwest of Paracel archipelago and south of the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin, according to the MSA.

A 2014 protest by Vietnamese against China's incursion into disputed waters
A 2014 protest by Vietnamese against China's incursion into disputed waters

The rig will conduct oil and gas exploration activities from June 25 to August 20, 2015, the MSA said. It also requested vessels to stay at least 2km from the platform to ensure operational safety.

A Chinese rig undertook exploratory drilling 80 miles off the Vietnamese coast in disputed waters in 2014, but was removed nearly a year ago after a number of incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese forces.

A source told the Vietnamese website Tuoi Tre that the same oil rig appeared in the northern area of waters claimed by Vietnam earlier in June. Vietnam’s maritime law enforcement forces have since kept a close watch on the rig’s movement, the source said.

China sent over 100 vessels, including warships, to accompany the rig last year and a number of Vietnamese patrol and coast guard vessels were rammed, according to Tuoi Tre, injuring 17 Vietnamese sailors.

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