New Gulf of Tonkin conflict brewing
HANOI, April 8, 2016 – Vietnam demanded China move an exploration rig late on Thursday amid ongoing delineation works in the much-contested waters of the South China Sea.
“Vietnam resolutely opposes and demands that China abandon drilling plans and immediately withdraw the Hai Duong 981 [HD 981] oil rig from this area, and that it not take additional unilateral actions that further complicate the situation,” Le Hai Bihn, spokesperson for the Vietnamese foreign minister, said on Thursday, adding that a protest had been lodged with the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi.
HD 981, referred to in Vietnam as Haiyang Shiyou 981, was the subject of controversy in 2014 as well, when it was positioned near the Paracel Islands. While the Chinese took control over the archipelago after the 1974 battle of the Paracel Islands, Vietnam never relinquished its claim, and Chinese territorial claims in that part of the South China Sea are also contested by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
When the Chinese moved HD 981 again in January 2016, Vietnam issued similar warnings. The rig is presently located along the edge of the Gulf of Tonkin, famous for the 1964 incidents involving the US Navy and North Vietnam that accelerated the US involvement in the Vietnam conflict.