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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More