As many as 114 Chinese vessels, including six military ships, were deployed in arcs around its illegal oil rig in Vietnam’s waters on Friday to prevent local vessels from getting close to the platform, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s correspondents reported from the scene.
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These vessels also included 42-43 coast guard ships, 13-14 transport boats, 15-17 tugboats, 34 iron-clad fishing boats and six military ships, the department said.
As on Thursday, Chinese boats were arranged in arcs on both sides of the rig. They waited for Vietnamese vessels to approach the platform to close the encirclement and attack them with a pincer movement.
They also frequently approached local vessels attempting to ram or fire water cannons at them to drive them away from the rig’s area.
There was a time when Vietnamese coast guard CSB 4302 was cornered in water by several Chinese vessels that sounded their sirens loudly to threaten the local vessel.
At 8 am, a Y8 Chinese military plane was seen hovering above the Vietnamese vessels in the water at an altitude of over 1,000 meters.
Planes of this kind can act as both fighting and spying aircraft, the department said, adding that China has sent many fighter planes to the area over the past several days.
“China has not shown any signs of de-escalation in the waters, with the number of guarding vessels slightly increasing day after day,” said Senior Lieutenant Colonel Truong Duc Tue, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnam Coast Guard of Zone 1.
Chinese vessels have been closely deployed around the rig and were ready to attack Vietnamese vessels whenever possible, the official said.
He also added that there were no signs that China was preparing to move the rig, which has illegally been placed in the Vietnamese waters since early May.
Meanwhile, about 40 Chinese iron-clad fishing boats, with the support of two coast guard ships, #46102 and #46106, continuously bullied their small Vietnamese counterparts in the Vietnamese waters about 42 nautical miles west-southwest from the rig.
However, local fishing vessels tried to maintain their operation under the protection of some Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ships.
China has illegally maintained the rig and its guarding ships in Vietnam’s waters despite strong protests from Vietnam, which have repeatedly demanded that Beijing remove the rig from the waters immediately.