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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs