News / Asia

Analysts: China Planted Oil Rig to Test Vietnamese Resolve

Officers of the Vietnamese Marine Guard monitor a Chinese coast guard vessel (top) on the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) offshore of Vietnam, May 15, 2014.
Officers of the Vietnamese Marine Guard monitor a Chinese coast guard vessel (top) on the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) offshore of Vietnam, May 15, 2014.
Sarah Williams
China’s decision to place an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam has raised the stakes in the showdown over the South China Sea.  As the week came to an end, violence and lack of diplomatic talk indicate indicate tensions between China and Vietnam are not getting better. 

China claims almost the entire maritime region, despite various competing claims from the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, in addition to Hanoi.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung says by placing the oil rig near the Paracel Islands China has “seriously threatened peace and stability.”

Beijing says Vietnam’s claim to the region is “ridiculous,” with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang calling the islands the “indisputable territory of the Chinese people.”

Vietnamese outrage over the Chinese oil rig triggered anti-China protests that killed at least two people earlier this month.

In addition, a Vietnamese fishing boat sank this week after it was allegedly rammed by Chinese vessels.  Vietnam says four other ships were surrounded and rammed by Chinese vessels two days later.

Two experts spoke to VOA about the Chinese decision to place the oil rig in contested waters at this time, knowing it would provoke outrage from Vietnam.

“I think it’s part of a long-term pattern of testing the responses of states around the region, ranging along the spectrum of much weaker states like the Philippines up to Japan and the United States,” said Michael Auslin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“There are moments of opportunity and this seemed to be one where they could get away with really trying to stake their claim in waters that by almost any definition are Vietnam’s,” Auslin said.

John Tkacik, the director of the Future Asia Project at the International Strategy and Assessment Center in Alexandria, Virginia, agrees with the perception that this was a calculated move by Beijing.

“I think this has been in the works for a long time,” Tkacik said.  “One just doesn’t just get a $1.2 billion oil rig and plunk it in the South China Sea as a way of sending a signal on the spur of the moment.”

The dispute is complicated by China’s preference to deal with the countries involved individually, instead of through an organization like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.  That has made the other members of ASEAN concerned about China’s growing might. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping says China works to resolve peacefully issues of maritime sovereignty, and questions Asian countries that seek alliances against neighbors.

“If you look ahead, clearly the ground is shifting against China, I would argue, in terms of perceptions and the degree to which other Southeast Asian nations are willing to let it expand without type of hedges around it,” said Auslin. 

Vietnamese officials indicate they might take legal action against China concerning the oil rig and attacks against Vietnamese ships.  The U.S. might help the Southeast Asian nations in this regard, according to John Tkacik.

“International law, on the Law of the Sea, to be specific, is on the side of the non-China claimants here,” he said.  “The United States is in a position to play a leadership role in forcing this issue into an international arbitration.”

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Yee Kai Ming
June 03, 2014 3:59 AM
British processed British Indian Ocean Territory that belongs to Mauritius.

USA Processed Smith Island, Maryland,_Maryland

by: stan from: usa
June 03, 2014 12:07 AM
No Faye faye. That's kind of twisting it a bit. China simply is pushing the issue. They feel threatened by the USA and are trying to test our resolve to our Asian allies. Those are pretty clearly Vietnamese waters. The evil USA you say? Should we discuss Chinese human rights? Tibet? I mean really.

by: Faye Faye
June 01, 2014 1:07 AM
The territory has been part of China's since the Han Dynasty, 1000 years ago.

The usa, britain and China made the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration in 1945 requesting japan to return all the territories to China from japan's occupation. Japan accepted that the territories being part of China and signed the declaration, which included the Islands in the East and South China seas, the current so-called dispute area.

In 1970, after the discovery of oil in China's territories, everyone has chosen to ignore the declarations and came to loot China's territories.

The evil usa, in order to stop the rise of China, shuts the mouth up about the declarations, and even encourages those greedy countries, such as japan, vietnam and the philippines to steal China's territories.

by: MesaAsianMan from: USA
May 31, 2014 8:09 PM
Can you all see?? China now wants to be alliance with Russian and Iran, those three will try to take over the world just like the Nazi and Italian and Japanese in WWII.

by: Vic from: USA
May 31, 2014 3:59 PM
If you are Chinliar then I don't have anything to say. The Chinliar from China always rob from small countries, steal from big countries and copy ideas from everybody. Chinliar you can look at map of China from 1917, 1920, 1930 1945, where are those island on those map? And now cow tongue, you want to have a cow tongue, you speak with your cow tongue.

by: Tuan from: VN
May 31, 2014 3:50 PM
China want the world to know that they can make rules and do whatever they want. They are stil smoking weed from the West.

With China there are no laws. The strong live, the end!

Vietnam don't play chicken. A M79 is enough to make the rig disappeared. Then international laws shall be enforced. China will be embarassing one more time for history.

by: Andy from: Canada
May 31, 2014 3:05 PM
I challenge Auslin to provide historical facts that support what he said: " waters that by almost any definition are Vietnam’s”

by: Toan from: US
May 31, 2014 2:20 PM
China is doing what its emperors did from the time immemorial through its core belief of Great Han ethnic expansionism. Nothing new, it just replaces swords and bow arrows with missiles and torpedoes. The Han Chinese somehow still believe that they own Asia. They got away with Tibet, East Turkestan invasions during the moment when Western powers were exhausted after WWII and believe they can get away this time with the whole South China Sea invasion. This time things are different for a change. Vietnam and Philippines are not Tibet nor East Turkestan. China under Xi made one step closer to the path of German Na-zi Thrid Reich. Xi - the new Fuhrer of China - threatens to attack Japan, Philippines and Vietnam in the same time. This is a hallmark sign for the beginning of downfall of all evil empires.

by: Eric the truth from: Earth
May 31, 2014 1:06 PM
The U.S. government and her western media all spoke with one voice. They don't talk about the multiple oil rigs Vietnam has built and owed over the years in the South China Sea in the waters still disputed by both China and Vietnam generated 30 billion of revenue to their communist government in 2013. Yet when China exercised her sovereignty built her first oil rigs in her territorial waters in her economic zone, the United States and Vietnam and the Media come to the attack of China. Only if the people are telling the truth, this world will not be a better and safer world.

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
May 31, 2014 10:44 AM
“International law, on the Law of the Sea, to be specific, is on the side of the non-China claimants here,” he said. “The United States is in a position to play a leadership role in forcing this issue into an international arbitration.”
Did America ratify the UNCLOS yet? If not, then sh ut up.
Btw, the nine dash line was first published by Taiwan, ROC in 1947, no country complained in 40 years until oil found there! Greedy viet and fino, get out of China sea!
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