A Chinese oil survey vessel that has been embroiled in a tense standoff with Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea yesterday left Vietnamese-controlled waters after more than three months.
The Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, was speeding away from Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone toward China under the escort of at least two Chinese ships, according to data from Marine Traffic, a Web site that tracks vessels.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, but Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims to all or parts of the waters.
Tension between Hanoi and Beijing escalated in early July, when China sent the vessel to conduct surveys in waters off Vietnam.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly accused the vessel and its escorts of breaching Vietnam’s sovereignty and has demanded that China remove its ships from the area.
The ministry did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.
Police in August broke up a brief protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi over the vessel.
Asked about the Chinese ship, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said that it had “started its scientific survey in Chinese-controlled waters in early July.”
“According to our understanding, the work is presently complete,” she told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Xu Qiliang (許其亮) earlier this week called for dialogue at a meeting in Beijing with Vietnamese Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich to address the complex global and regional situation, the official Vietnam News Agency reported on Wednesday.
It quoted Lich as saying that the joint efforts of all countries could help to cope with common security challenges.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Ha Hoang Hop said that China only withdrew the vessel after the oil rig Hakuryu-5 completed drilling at Vietnam’s Block 06.1, which is operated by Russian state oil firm Rosneft.
“China doesn’t want any non-ASEAN companies to drill for oil in the South China Sea,” said Hop, who is also a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
“China is determined to pressure Vietnam to end joint oil exploration and production with foreign partners in the area,” Hop said.
“It’s very likely that China will send an oil rig to drill in the area where the Haiyang Dizhi 8 had conducted seismic surveys in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone,” Hop added.