China has again deployed the Haiyang Shiyou 981, a semi-submersible oil platform which caused a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels last year, to the disputed South China Sea region, reports local media.
China has brought the deepwater oil rig near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration said on its website the oil rig is located at 17 degrees 03.75 minutes north latitude (17-03.75N) and 109 degrees 59.05 minutes east longitude (109-59.05E).
According to Reuters the move comes soon after the country indicated it was close to setting up new outposts in the maritime heart of South-East Asia as it nears completion of land reclamation in the South China Sea.
The announcement said the rig would explore for oil and gas until August 20.
A Vietnamese Coast Guard source said they would "make announcements" if the oil rig's activities violate Vietnam's sovereignty.
Some sources said the oil rig had actually turned up in the northern waters of the East Sea early this month.
China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
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.