03 June 2014, News Wires – Tensions between China and Vietnam are once again running high after a Vietnamese government-controlled vessel was reportedly damaged by a Chinese Coast Guard boat near an oil rig at the weekend.
The incident between the two vessels in the South China Sea on Sunday left the Vietnamese unit “severely damaged”, according to national broadcaster China National Radio.
China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) earlier this month moved its semi-submersible rig Hai Yang Shi You 981 into an area near the Paracel Islands – or Xisha Islands as China calls them – in a disputed area of the South China Sea, prompting outrage from the Vietnam government.
Services subsidiary China Oilfield Services said late last month that the semisub, which began drilling on 2 May, had completed its first phase of operations and was relocating to conduct a second phase on the block.
While CNOOC gathered seismic in the area last year, the decision to begin drilling without Vietnam’s agreement surprised many observers and provoked condemnation from Washington.
Sunday’s incident is said to have occurred near the semisub, with the Chinese vessel turning a water hose on its Vietnamese counterpart, according to reports.
Up to four people are said to have been killed recently as the standoff between the two Asian neighbours led to violent scenes in public and private arenas.
Despite the deadly riots, China remains Vietnam’s largest trading partner.
China and Vietnam both claim the Paracels, while Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, The Philippines and Taiwan dispute other areas of the South China Sea that China also views as its own.