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Second Chinese Oil Rig Moves Closer to Vietnam Coast After Talks

A second Chinese oil rig is due to arrive at a location closer to Vietnam today, two days after the end of high-level talks aimed at defusing tensions between the two countries over a current drilling operation.

The Nanhai 9 platform left waters off Hainan island on June 18 traveling southwest at a speed of four knots (7.4 kilometers per hour), according to China’s Maritime Safety Administration. The rig remains in China’s coastal waters, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing today.

A previous oil rig placed in waters claimed by each nation on May 2 near the disputed Paracel Islands heightened bilateral tensions, leading to skirmishes between coast guard vessels and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat.

“When someone is trying to do something in front of his house, why would there be so many efforts to make associations and interpretations?” spokeswoman Hua said in Beijing when asked about the Nanhai 9 rig. “You even mentioned if it will be moved to disputed waters, I am telling you very clearly that it’s in the coastal waters near Guangdong province and Hainan island. Please be rest assured that there won’t be any issue.”

Three other rigs are also in the South China Sea, according to separate notices posted by the Maritime Safety Administration yesterday. They are in Chinese coastal waters, Hua said today.

Bilateral Talks

Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said after his June 18 talks with China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi, the country’s highest foreign policy official, that Vietnam was seeking a “healthy” relationship with China. Both sides said they had agreed to seek to avoid further disturbances in the region and to try and ease tensions.

“We wish to have dialogue to resolve the current complicated situation in the East Sea,” Minh said, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea.

Minh also insisted China withdraw the rig and its vessels from “Vietnamese waters,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement. China in return demanded Vietnam stop disrupting its “normal” drilling operations and “hyping up” the incident.

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