Chinese vessel #2506, one of more than 100 Chinese ships that are guarding China’s oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 in Vietnam’s waters, hung a banner reading “peaceful co-existence” on its side on Thursday.
The banner, written in Vietnamese, reads: “Trung Quốc – Việt Nam hữu nghị chung sống hòa bình với nhau” (China/Vietnam, friendly and peaceful co-existence), the national TV station Vietnam Television reported the same day.
The banner was seen clearly when vessel #2506 suddenly sped up toward and then sailed alongside at a very short distance from Vietnam Coast Guard ship CSB 4032, which was entering an area about nine nautical miles from the drilling platform.
Another Chinese vessel, #3383, also joined vessel #2506 in threatening the local ship to drive away from the illegal rig.
The same aggressive move was made by many other Chinese vessels that often approached and scared Vietnamese vessels away from the waters where the platform has been illegally placed since May 1.
There were many times when the shortest distance between the foreign and local vessels was less than 100 meters.
China yesterday deployed 103 vessels in the area, including 41 coast guard ships, 18 transport boats, 16 tugboats, 23 iron-clad fishing boats and five military ships, the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department reported.
Despite threats from these foreign vessels, which were ready to ram or blast local craft with high-powered water cannons, the Vietnamese marine enforcement force’s ships tried to get as close to the rig as possible to demand it and its escorting ships to leave the Vietnamese waters.
China also sent planes to the waters to threaten and spy on local vessels yesterday, the department said.
During the time between 11:45 am and 1:05 pm, a fixed-wing plane, CMS-B3808, flew three rounds above Vietnamese coast guard and fisheries surveillance ships at an altitude of 200-300 meters.
Throughout Thursday, a large number of Chinese iron-clad fishing vessels, with the support of two coast guard boats and two fishery logistics service ships, often got close to local fishing boats to drive them away from their traditional fishing ground about 42-45 nautical miles west-southwest of the rig.
However, Vietnamese fishing vessels tried to maintain operations there, with the protection of fisheries surveillance ships.
Beijing has still maintained the drilling rig within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf despite vehement protest from Hanoi.
There was no sign of movement of the rig yesterday, the department said.