China, Vietnam to Discuss Disputed Oil Rig

By Dow Jones Business News, 

China and Vietnam will hold high-level talks on Wednesday as relations remain strained over the deployment in early May of a Chinese drilling platform to waters claimed by Hanoi and Beijing.

The meeting between Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi will be the first official contact between the Asian neighbors after more than six weeks of angry confrontations.

While neither side is likely to back down in their dispute over the Paracel Islands and the surrounding waters of the South China Sea, the diplomatic opening is the first sign that Beijing and Hanoi are seeking to de-escalate a standoff that has battered their bilateral relations.

China's deployment of the rig sparked serious anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam, and one Vietnamese boat was sunk in a collision with a Chinese vessel in the vicinity of the drilling platform.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has blamed China for "violating international law" through its actions in the South China Sea, but Beijing has rebuffed such criticism, saying it is entitled to conduct drilling operations within its own territory.

The Chinese envoy will meet Mr. Dung after the talks with the Vietnamese foreign minister.

"We hope that Vietnam keeps its eye on the broader picture, meets China halfway and appropriately resolves the present situation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

Hanoi is considering taking legal action against Beijing, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has confirmed, and Mr. Yang's visit may be designed in part to persuade Vietnam against taking such a course, which the Chinese government vehemently opposes.

Beijing has flatly rejected any involvement in an arbitration case launched by the Philippines at an independent tribunal in The Hague, and has also been critical of Vietnam whenever it has raised the issue of its dispute with China in international fora.

However, the Chinese drilling platform, which is operated by state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp., is still in the disputed area. It seems unlikely Hanoi would be willing to make any concessions until the rig has been removed. The rig is not due to end operations there until Aug. 15.

Vu Trong Khanh and Chuin-Wei Yap contributed to this article.

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This article appears in: Energy

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