Viet Nam yesterday reaffirmed that it would take all necessary measures, preferably diplomatic, to protect its waters. This follows increased attacks on Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig on Viet Nam's continental shelf.
Speaking at an international press conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, Rear Admiral Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the Viet Nam Coast Guard, said at least six Vietnamese sailors had been injured in the past few days as Chinese ships "intentionally collided and fired water cannons at Vietnamese vessels, causing damage".
Officials admitted the situation was getting more "complicated". China has already dispatched 80 ships to the area, including seven naval vessels, as Viet Nam's demanded the removal of the rig.
According to Tran Duy Hai, Vice Chair of the National Boundary Commission, on May 1, Vietnamese vessels on patrol discovered the Chinese oil rig stationed 130 nautical miles off the coast of Viet Nam. It was about 119 nautical miles off Ly Son Island in Quang Ngai Province, which he said was a clear violation of Viet Nam's sovereignty.
A Vietnamese vessel is seen being damaged after the collision.
"This is clearly an intentional act, seriously violating the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Viet Nam over its Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. It also infringes upon the relevant provisions of the international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and runs counter to the spirit and language of the DOC. China's actions run counter to the agreements and common understanding between the two countries leaders, particularly the agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues between Viet Nam and China," Hai said.
Viet Nam is also demanding China remove all human resources and ships out of the area and compensate for the damage and injuries it has caused to Vietnamese vessels and sailors, Hai added.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was intensifying all resources to ensure the situation could be settled through diplomatic channels. It added that six working sessions had already been held in Ha Noi and Beijing.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh also discussed the situation with China's state councillor, Yang Jiechi. Viet Nam is also waiting for China to confirm a possible telephone call between the highest leaders in both countries.
Vietnamese vessels will continue their presence in the area, asking China to remove its ships and oil rig. Vietnamese officials reiterated that Viet Nam would not engage in military action and only engage in "self-defence" activities.
General Director of PetroVietnam Do Van Hau said it was still unclear whether the area where China had its rig had commercial oil.
"We don't have enough assessments of this area even though we have conducted previous researches. However, PetroVietnam does have plan to explore deeper sea area within Vietnamese waters," Hau said.
The situation comes as the ASEAN Summit prepares to go ahead in Myanmar this weekend. ASEAN countries hope to further discuss the completion of a Code of Conduct to prevent tensions in the East Sea.
Le Hai Binh, spokesperson for Viet Nam's Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Viet Nam hoped that the code would present legal advice to enhance naval security and protect the interest of all nations.