Paracel Islands

The Energy Context behind China’s Drilling Rig in the South China Sea

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Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 11
June 4, 2014 04:51 PM Age: 16 days By: James Manicom

On May 3 China placed the Haiyang Shiyou 981 deep water semi-submersible drilling rig 119nm off the coast of Vietnam and 180nm from Hainan Island. The rig lies 17nm from Triton Island, part of the Paracel islands that China occupied by force from then South Vietnam in 1974. Vietnamese and international condemnation was swift and strident. Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Bing Minh called the move a violation of Vietnamese sovereignty and the U.S. State Department described the move as “provocative”. Chinese Foreign Ministry (FMPRC) Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the rig was normal part of regular offshore resource exploration activities China is entitled to conduct in its territorial waters off of the Paracel islands (FMPRC press conference, May 6 and 12). The move is in fact a deliberate Chinese escalation of its territorial and maritime dispute with Vietnam. This marks the first time that any claimant has unilaterally explored for hydrocarbon resources in a disputed part of the South China Sea, although Chinese officials maintain the activity in question is a decade old, and claimants have previously granted concessions to international energy companies to explore disputed areas (FMPRC press conference, May 14). Read the rest of this entry »