HANOI May 5 Vietnam says China's plan to move
its first deep-water drilling rig into the disputed South China
Sea, one of Asia's most volatile hotspots, is illegal and has
called for the rig to be removed from what it says is Vietnam's
The $1 billion offshore oil rig called Haiyang Shiyou 981
owned by the China's state-run CNOOC oil company has been
drilling south of Hong Kong.
Maritime Safety Administration of China (MSAC) on Saturday
published an announcement on its website saying it prohibits all
marine vessels entering into a one mile radius of the Haiyang
Shiyou 981's South China Sea drilling work.
Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Sunday objected to
the move, saying the oil rig coordinates were within Vietnam's
exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, about 120
nautical miles off its coast.
"All activities of foreign countries in Vietnam's waters
without Vietnam's permission are illegal and worthless, Vietnam
resolutely opposed," spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement.
Vietnam's state Oil and Gas Group PetroVietnam sent a letter
to CNOOC on Sunday saying it strongly objected to China's action
and "insisted CNOOC stop immediately the illegal activities and
pull out Haiyang Shiyou 981 of Vietnam's waters".
Despite Hanoi's objection, MSAC on Monday expanded the
prohibited area around its oil rig to a three miles radius.
CNOOC, China's top offshore oil producer, in 2012 invited
foreign companies to jointly develop nine blocks in the western
part of the South China Sea, a move Vietnam said was illegal
because the blocks overlap its territorial waters.
China and the 10 countries of the Association of South East
Asian Nations, which will hold an ASEAN summit in Myanmar on May
10-11, are trying to negotiating a code of conduct to ease
tensions in the South China Sea.
(Additional reporting by Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by