HANOI/BEIJING, June 11 Vietnam said on Wednesday
a Chinese oil rig at the centre of an increasingly bitter
territorial dispute appeared to be on the move again, as China
denied Vietnamese accusations that it had sent warships to the
The rig's deployment triggered anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam
last month that killed at least four workers.
Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, including coastguard
vessels, have squared off around the rig despite a series of
collisions after the platform was towed to the area in early
In a statement, Vietnam's Directorate of Fisheries said the
rig had shown signs of moving towards the east and southeast.
China had 119 vessels in the rig's operating area, it added,
including six naval ships and four circling military aircraft.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying
dismissed as "completely incorrect" the accusations that China
had sent six warships, adding that the rig operations were
commercial in nature.
"Because Vietnam keeps forcefully and illegally carrying out
interference, we have sent official Chinese government ships to
guarantee security on the scene, but we have not sent military
ships," she told a daily news briefing.
The Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig is drilling between the Paracel
islands, which China occupies, and the Vietnamese coast. Vietnam
has said the rig is in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic
zone and on its continental shelf.
China says it is operating within its waters.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, but
parts of the potentially energy-rich waters are also subject to
claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Hua said Vietnam had sent a large number of armed ships to
interfere in the rig's operations, though she would not confirm
whether the rig had moved.
She added that rig operations, which started on May 2, are
expected to go on until the middle of August.
"We hope that it can be completed smoothly and safely," she
said, accusing Vietnam of having stirred up last month's
violence against foreign companies.
"Vietnam's government incited certain domestic lawbreaking
elements to smash up and burn foreign companies, including
Chinese ones...There has still been no compensation for this,"
(Reporting by Ho Binh Minh in HANOI, and Ben Blanchard in
BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)