Beijing sends another oil rig to South China Sea

Beijing sends another oil rig to South China Sea
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi talks toVietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi.

BEIJING - Another Chinese oil rig is set to arrive Friday in the South China Sea, authorities said, as Beijing and Hanoi trade accusations over an increasingly heated territorial row.

The move marks a fresh escalation of the dispute, which has seen a wave of deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam as well as accusations from both sides of ramming by the other's vessels following China's dispatch seven weeks ago of a rig into waters Hanoi claims.

Talks in Hanoi between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung over the dispute ended in deadlock on Wednesday.

The new rig was dispatched that same day, according to a statement posted online by the China Maritime Safety Administration.

It remains unclear whether the rig will be deployed in waters that are in dispute.

Asked Thursday about the move, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded that the rig's operations would take place "within the coastal waters off China's Hainan Island", off the southern tip of the country.

Relations between China and Vietnam have plummeted over the oil rig row, with Beijing saying last week that Vietnamese ships have rammed its vessels more than 1,500 times since early last month, while Vietnam has released footage showing a large Chinese ship near the rig chasing and ramming one of its fishing boats, which then sank.

Hanoi has demanded that China withdraw the rig, which is in waters near the Paracel Islands claimed by Vietnam.

Anti-Chinese riots sparked by Beijing's dispatch of the deep-sea rig claimed three Chinese lives in Vietnam last month, according to Hanoi. Beijing says four Chinese citizens died.

The dispute is only the latest between China and its southeast Asian neighbours, which challenge Beijing's expansive claims to the South China Sea.

The Philippines on Thursday asked a UN tribunal to speed up its ruling on whether China's claims in the region are in violation of international maritime law.

Beijing has resolutely refused to participate in the proceedings.

Beijing has also been accused of undertaking land reclamation projects in disputed areas, further stoking tensions.

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