Haiyang Shiyou 981 standoff refers to the tensions between China and Vietnam arising from the Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporationmoving its Haiyang Shiyou 981 (known in Vietnam as "Hải Dương - 981") oil platform to waters near the disputed Paracel Islands in South China Sea, and the resulting Vietnamese efforts to prevent the platform from establishing a fixed position. According to an announcement by the HainanMaritime Safety Administration of China, the drilling work of Haiyang Shiyou 981 would last from May 2 to August 15, 2014. On July 15, China announced that the platform had completed its work and withdrew it fully one month earlier than originally announced.
The standoff is regarded by analysts as the most serious development in the territorial disputes between the two countries ever since the Johnson South Reef Skirmish in 1988 in which more than 70 Vietnamese soldiers were killed.
The Paracel Islands have been subject to territorial disputes between China, Taiwan and Vietnam in the 20th century. In 1974, China and the US-backed South Vietnam fought the Battle of the Paracel Islands in which China took over the entire archipelago. South Vietnam never relinquished its claims, while Chinese and Soviet-backed North Vietnam (which did not administer the islands) supported the 1958 Declaration by China claiming all of the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, Macclesfield Bank and Pratas Islands. However, when North Vietnam reunited the country following the Vietnam War it repeated the former South Vietnamese claims.
China claims the sea and land inside the "nine-dashed line" which covers about 80% of the South China Sea as its territory. This claim is contested against by various countries in the region including Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines in addition to Vietnam. Republic of China (Taiwan) keeps the same claims as China and controls some islands from the 1940s when the date U-shaped eleven-dotted line was published. In 2001, China and ASEAN signed an agreement of the code of conduct between disputing countries in which they agreed neither side would make a unilateral move without consulting and negotiations with the other parties.
According to an announcement by the HainanMaritime Safety Administration, the drilling work of Haiyang Shiyou 981 lasted from May 2 to August 15, 2014, in area within 3 miles radius of 15-29.58N 111-12.06E.
On May 2, 2014, China National Offshore Oil Corporation moved its $1 billion Haiyang Shiyou 981oil rig to a location 17 nautical miles from Triton Island, the southwestern-most island of the Paracel Islands. According to Vietnam, its location has been shifted 3 times since then. The initial location was about 17 nautical miles off Triton Island (part of the Paracel Islands), 120 nautical miles east of Vietnam's Ly Son Island and 180 nautical miles south of China's Hainan Island, in which the last two nearest undisputed features generate a continental shelf. Up to now, it has been sitting on Vietnam's claimed continental shelf and on the Vietnamese side of any median line generated from the coastlines of the two countries. The location is also at the edge of hydrocarbon blocks 142 and 143 which were already created by Vietnam but had not been offered for exploitation to foreign oil companies, nor had been acknowledged by other disputed parties of South China Sea.
Soon after China moved its oil rig to south of Paracel Islands and established an exclusion zone around it, Vietnam vociferously protested the move as an infringement of its sovereignty. It sent 29 ships to attempt to disrupt the rig's placement and operations. The ships met resistance from Chinese ships escorting the rig, and Vietnam stated that its ships were repeatedly rammed and sprayed with water resulting in 6 people being injured, while China stated that its ships were also rammed and it sprayed water in self-defense. On May 26, a Vietnamese fishing boat sank near the oil rig after being rammed by a Chinese vessel; the incident was shown by a video footage from Vietnam a week later.
Internationally, Vietnam attempted to garner support at the ASEAN summit which occurred on May 10–11. Domestically, the tensions with China resulted in people protesting against Chinese actions, which was considered rare in a communist country where the government clamped down on public protests.On May 13 and 14, anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam escalated into riots in which many foreign businesses and Chinese workers were targeted. Businesses owned by foreign investors from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and South Korea were subject to vandalism and looting due to the confusion by protesters who believed the establishments to be Chinese.
China: On May 7, China said that operation of its drilling rig 981 near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea is legal and urged Vietnam to stop disturbing China's exploration activities in its territorial waters.
China: On May 11, Chinese side was "deeply surprised and shocked" by Vietnam's intensive attempts since May 2 to disrupt the Chinese company's normal drilling activities in the waters off China's Xisha Islands.
China: On June 8, China's Foreign Ministry released an article about the HYSY 981 drilling rig in the Xisha Islands on its website on Sunday. The Operation of the HYSY 981 Drilling Rig: Vietnam's Provocation and China's Position.
Vietnam: “Vietnam demand China to withdraw the oil rig Haiyang 981 and all of its ships and aircraft from Vietnam’s waters and not to repeat similar actions,” Vietnamese Ministry of Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh said at a press briefing on May 15.
Vietnam: On May 31, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung appeals for a “stronger voice” from the U.S. against China after clashes between coast guard vessels near the rig placed in contested waters.
United States: The U.S. Department of Statesaid it was monitoring events in Vietnam closely, and urged restraint from all parties. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is "deeply concerned" that China has placed an oil rig in an area of the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam, adding that the move was "provocative" and "aggressive". On May 12, during a meeting with President Nguyen Tan Dung in Vietnam, Sen. Ben Cardin and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decried recent actions by Chinese ships in the South China Sea as "aggressive tactics" and "deeply troubling".
Singapore: Ministry of Foreign AffairsSpokesman said Singapore was concerned about recent incidents in the South China Sea and called on parties to be self-restrained and to resolve disputes peacefully.
Japan: Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister of Japan, said on 9 May that he "deeply worried about" increasing tension in the South China Sea which was due to China's unilateral exploration "in an area of ocean with undefined borders". He believed that China had to make it clear about the basis and the details of its activities to Vietnam as well as other countries.
India: Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman stated on 9 May that India was concerned with the standoff in the South China Sea, believed that maintaining peace and prosperity was "vital interest to the international community" and free of navigation should not be hindered.
United Kingdom: Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign Office, stated on 10 May that the United Kingdom supported EU's 8 May statement about the situation in the South China Sea and had raised the issue with the government of China at ministerial level. He urged all the parties to restrain and find methods to cool off tension.
Canada: John Baird, Foreign Minister of Canada, stated on 19 May that Canada concerned with Sino-Vietnamese rising tension on the South China Sea, particularly by "dangerous conduct at sea and intimidation of vessels and by recent mainland events that have resulted in the vandalization of private property". Canada encouraged all the parties to resolve disputes in conformity with international laws and to avoid escalating tension since these actions could threaten "freedom of navigation, international trade and maritime security".
Philippines: on 22 May 2014 in Malacañang Palace, Filipino President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung "shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situation cause by China’s many actions that violate the international law".
Taiwan: (Republic of China) rejected all rival claims to the Paracel islands amidst the standoff, repeating its position that all of the Paracel, Spratly, Zhongsha and Pratas Islands belong to the Republic of China along with "their surrounding waters and respective seabed and subsoil", and that Taiwan views both Vietnam and mainland China's claims as illegitimate, in a statement released by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs which added – "There is no doubt that the Republic of China has sovereignty over the archipelagos and waters."
The New York Times, in an editorial published on May 9, supported the Vietnamese view and stated that "China’s protestations are not convincing". The newspaper called on Vietnam and its neighbors to have a unified response to China's "increasingly aggressive behavior".
The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest newspaper, in an editorial published on May 9, called on China to "desist immediately" its oil drilling in the South China Sea, and described China's behavior as "unacceptable". The newspaper supported the Vietnamese view that the "entire area falls within the exclusive economic zone established by Vietnam" and that "China had no right to unilaterally start such an economic undertaking in disputed waters in the first place".
The Christian Science Monitor, in an editorial published on May 8, related China's action in the South China Sea with Russia's action in Ukraine. According to the newspaper, Vietnam, like Ukraine, "are targets for expansion plans by their big neighbors" because they are not "members in any mutual-defense treaty that binds many of the full-fledged democracies in Europe and Asia". The newspaper called on Vietnam to democratize and to have "the universal rights of freedom and a respect for the dignity of the individual" if it wants to ward off Chinese aggression.
The Oman Tribune, an influential English-language newspaper in Oman, in an editorial, called China's actions as "flexing its military muscle once again". The newspaper commented that "Beijing is not fooling anybody with its attempt to deflect blame for the tensions on the US."
The Washington Post, in an editorial published on May 12, said that China's claim is "more tenuous" than Vietnam's claim and called its nine-dash line"audacious". The newspaper concluded, "most likely [China] will continue to act unilaterally in the region until it meets concerted resistance, whether diplomatic or military."
The Financial Times, in an editorial published on May 13, said that "Beijing clearly bears prime responsibility for this sudden surge of tension" but also called on Vietnam to "be wary of triggering a conflict with China, given Beijing’s military strength." The paper called ASEAN's reaction "feeble" and suggested that "all states with claims in the South China Sea should either cease exploration in disputed waters or share the spoils until final decisions about ownership are taken."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in an editorial published on May 13, called on the US not to intervene. The paper noted that Vietnam's failure to find support within ASEAN "raises questions about how seriously nations of the region take the threat of Chinese bullying." The paper ended by asking "if nations near China aren’t willing to speak with one voice and defend their interests on issues of sovereignty, then why should the United States?"After anti-Chinese riots occurred in Vietnam, the paper reiterated its view in another editorial published on May 16, "[t]he complexity of this Southeast Asian problem, including its internal Vietnamese aspects, should be a caution to the United States to stay out of it.
The Straits Times, Singapore's largest newspaper, in an editorial published on May 15, called on China to "not ignore the balanced call made at the Asean Summit for all parties to refrain from taking actions that would escalate tensions further". The paper wrote, "[t]he reported ramming of Vietnamese patrol ships by Chinese vessels, which turned water cannon on them, is precisely the kind of provocation that could escalate into something far bigger than what the assertive side intends."
The Jakarta Globe, an English-language Indonesian newspaper, in an editorial published on May 15, wrote "[w]e condemn attacks against Chinese people in Vietnam, and demand the Vietnamese government provide protection to foreign citizens in the country. However, we equally call on China to open a dialogue and stop bullying its smaller neighbors."
The Yomiuri Shimbun, the newspaper with the highest circulation in Japan and the world, in an editorial published on May 20, said that "China’s self-serving acts undermine the stability of Asia and the Pacific region". While noting that "the anti-China protests [in Vietnam] have gone too far", the paper noted that damages on Japanese companies during China's anti-Japanese protests in 2005 and 2012 are still hardly compensated.
The English-language Bangkok Post, Thailand's oldest newspaper, in an editorial published on May 26, said that the anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam "was all about the insupportable actions of China". The paper said that "Hanoi now must move to clean up this situation, which was largely if not completely of its making" and that "[t]he assaults and arson of the southern Vietnam mob cannot be supported but, in the context of Chinese hassling, it is understandable.
The Globe and Mail, in an editorial published on May 29, wrote that both China and Vietnam should resolve their conflict through the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The paper concluded "As a rising power, China should not feel threatened by an international forum or international law...Beijing has no need to contend for every square kilometre of disputed seawater. The country’s future prosperity lies in good relations with its neighbours, growing trade and rising education and living standards among its people. It has nothing to gain from acquiring a few extra square kilometres of ocean or rocks."
Starting on May 11, a series of unprecedented anti-China protests following by unrests and riots flared up across Vietnam.
Previously on May 8, VN-Index, Vietnam’s benchmark stock index plunged 5.91%, marking the biggest drop since 2001 amid escalating tensions with China over disputed waters. It however recovered 2.92% on the following trading day.