Vietnamese ships on Friday reached the nearest-ever distance from an oil rig China has illegally placed since May 1, the Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance Department reported.
Vietnamese ships entered an area 2.8 nautical miles from the drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981, despite threats by Chinese vessels that are guarding the facility, according to the department.
Yesterday 117 Chinese vessels including four military ships were deployed in the area where the drilling rig has been re-located since May 27 in Vietnam’s waters, the department reported.
These Chinese vessels, with the support of jet fighters, often approached Vietnamese ships to ram or fire their water cannons at them.
Despite such threats, some Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ships managed to reach an area about 2.8 nautical miles from the rig and used loudspeakers to request it and its guarding ships to leave the waters, the department said.
Meanwhile, most of the other Vietnamese vessels had been prevented and threatened by Chinese vessels.
At 7:30 am, at least five Chinese ships, including three police marine boats and two tugboats, sped up towards some Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ships in an area about 10 nautical miles from the rig.
The foreign vessels tried to ram or fire their water cannons at the local ships, which managed to escape the attacks.
A while later, Chinese coast guard boat #46001 rushed to a Vietnamese coast guard boat, CSB 2016, and stopped in an area about 50 meters away from the prow of the local ship.
The face-to-face encounter lasted for five minutes before another Chinese ship rushed to the scene to support vessel #46001.
Therefore, the Vietnamese ship decided to retreat to avoid a possible clash.
Some similar encounters happened through Friday and all of the involved Vietnamese ships tried to avoid collisions with Chinese vessels, Lieutenant Quan Dinh Duong, the captain of CSB 2016, said.
Generally, the rig’s guarding ships were less aggressive yesterday than in previous days, the official said, adding that Chinese vessels also launched fewer attacks with water canonns or attempts to crash into local ships.
The less aggressiveness of Chinese ships might be resulted from the denouncement by media, both in Vietnam and abroad, about Chinese vessels’ use of force against local Vietnamese ships that are protecting Vietnam’s territorial waters, Duong said.
Many international correspondents who have been present in the waters where the Chinese oil rig is illegally located have praised the restraint of Vietnamese force in confrontation with the Chinese vessels.
One of them is Manami Sasaki, chief representative of the Japanese daily Asahi in Hanoi, who said he was very impressed by the restraint by the Vietnamese force in coping with Chinese ships’ aggressive and provocative acts.