China’s illegal deployment of oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HD 981) to Vietnamese waters in the East Vietnam Sea will definitely have a negative effect on the air transport market between the two nations, a Vietnamese senior aviation official has warned.
The illicit deployment “is a serious violation [of Vietnam’s sovereignty] and will surely affect the Vietnam-China air travel market,” Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), told the Vietnam News Agency on Monday.
Thanh added that the market could face a slow-down due to current tense incidents at sea.
According to the official, China is one of local national carrier Vietnam Airlines’ major air markets with 80 flights per week.
Thanh added that the East Vietnam Sea is one of the areas that have the busiest air routes in the world so any abnormal increase in flight activities will affect normal air paths there.
Colonel Ngo Ngoc Thu, Vice Commander and Chief of Staff of the Vietnam Coast Guard, was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying on Sunday that the Coast Guard detected two groups of Chinese military aircraft flying above Vietnamese ships on the mornings of May 9 and 10 at an altitude of 800 meters. The ships have been trying to prevent the oil rig from illicitly drilling in Vietnamese waters.
Among the groups were a team of fighter jets and Chinese military aircraft # 9401 flying over Vietnamese ship CSB 8003, the vice commander said.
The CAAV has directed the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation to pay close attention to ensuring the safety of air routes in hotspots in the East Vietnam Sea.
Since early this month, Chinese vessels have continually rammed or fired high-powered water cannons at their Vietnamese counterparts, causing damage to several ships and injuries to nine Vietnamese fisheries surveillance staff members.
The attacks came when the Vietnamese side was trying to persuade the Chinese to remove their oil rig from Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The Chinese rig is now located at 15°29’58’’ North latitude and 111°12’06’’ East longitude in the East Vietnam Sea, about 119 nautical miles (221 km) from Ly Son Island off the central Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai and 18 nautical miles south of Tri Ton Island off Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.
This location, announced by the Chinese, is within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.