News / Asia

    Chinese Oil Rig Moved Away from Disputed Waters Off Vietnam

    Chinese ships are seen on the horizon guarding the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig (2nd R) in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.
    Chinese ships are seen on the horizon guarding the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig (2nd R) in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.
    Reuters

    A Chinese oil rig has finished drilling near the disputed Paracel islands in the South China Sea after finding signs of oil and gas and is being moved away from the area, more than two months after its deployment damaged relations with Hanoi.

    The Vietnamese coastguard said the $1-billion rig had been towed from contested waters. China's official Xinhua news agency said the rig would be relocated off the southernmost island province of Hainan. It gave no timeframe.

    The rig's relocation could reduce tensions between the two neighbors after one of the worst breakdowns in ties since they fought a brief war in 1979.

    Its movement toward Hainan is also likely to be welcomed by Washington, which had criticized China's decision to put the rig in waters disputed with Vietnam, calling it a “provocative” act.

    Hanoi had said the rig was in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf. Beijing had said it was operating completely within its waters around the Paracel islands, which China occupies.

    China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the country's dominant oil and gas producer, said in a statement the rig “smoothly completed” its drilling on Tuesday and found signs of oil and gas. The next step would be to analyze the geological data and evaluate the layers of oil and gas, it said.

    CNPC's preliminary analysis showed “the area has the basic conditions and potential for oil exploration, but extraction testing cannot begin before a comprehensive assessment of the data,” Xinhua quoted Wang Zhen, deputy director of the CNPC Policy Research Office, as saying.

    China had previously said the rig was scheduled to explore the waters around the Paracels until mid-August. It was not clear why it had finished one month ahead of schedule, although Xinhua said July was the beginning of the typhoon season.

    China's popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo lit up with criticism of the move. Many people said the government had bowed to the United States, underscoring the domestic pressure Beijing faces to be tough in its territorial disputes.

    But China's Foreign Ministry said the decision was made in accordance with commercial decisions and had “no relation to any outside factor.”

    The government also insists the area belongs to China and as recently as Tuesday told Washington to stay out of quarrels over the South China Sea.

    Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a Chinese government think tank on Hainan, said he believed the rig completed its work ahead of schedule because of good weather before the typhoon season began.

    “The place has fairly good oil and gas potential. It looks promising,” said Wu, an expert on China's energy ambitions in the South China Sea.

    Action at sea

    The rig was towed from its original position overnight to beyond what Hanoi considers its exclusive economic zone, Lieutenant-Colonel Ngo Minh Tung of the Vietnamese coastguard told a small group of reporters on one of the maritime agency's ships in the area.

    “According to our assessment and the speed at which it was moving, the rig has left Vietnamese waters,” Tung said.

    The coastguard would stay in the area to protect Vietnamese fishing boats and the country's sovereignty, Tung added.

    On Tuesday, the same coastguard vessel was chased off by a group of Chinese ships in what had been a near daily cat-and-mouse routine between boats from both sides since the rig was deployed on May 2.

    Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung demanded that China not send any more rigs into Vietnamese waters.

    The deployment was a major test for Dung, especially when deadly anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam in May, triggering protests from China. Several people were killed.

    The rig is owned by state-run China National Offshore Oil Company Group (CNOOC Group), parent of flagship unit CNOOC Ltd.

    It is China's newest and most advanced rig, and can drill in waters up to 3,000 m deep, about double that of the other two rigs China uses for deep sea work, industry sources say.

    China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the waters, whose estimated energy potential varies widely.

    Discoveries near the coasts of Southeast Asian countries in recent years have been mostly natural gas, reinforcing the belief among geologists and explorers that there is more gas than oil in the South China Sea.

    Chinese industry experts have said the rig had a good chance of finding enough gas to put the area into production. That would give China its first viable energy field in the disputed South China Sea, but make it a source of friction with Hanoi for years to come.

    The world's largest energy user imports nearly 60 percent of its oil needs and more than 30 percent of its natural gas.

    In a 2013 report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a government agency, said geological evidence suggested the Paracel islands themselves did not have significant potential in terms of conventional hydrocarbons.

    However, the chance of making a major gas discovery near the islands was high because there had been several gas finds already in the area, experts have said.

    Vietnam has two fields to the left of where the rig had been stationed, much closer to its coast, where U.S. giant Exxon Mobil Corp discovered oil and gas in 2011 and 2012.  

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora