China’s HYSY 981 is once again operating near the Gulf of Tonkin, to Vietnam’s dismay.
In what has become something of a yearly ritual, Vietnam and China are once again trading diplomatic barbs over a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea.
In May 2014, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HYSY 981) oil platform moved into waters south of the Paracel Islands, which are controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam. The resulting anger from Hanoi – and run-ins between Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Vietnamese ships — marked a recent low point in China-Vietnam ties. Anger in Vietnam even boiled over into violent anti-Chinese riots.
The rig moved away form the Paracels in August 2014, ahead of schedule (though Chinese statements indicated that the rig had simply finished its operations early). It returned to the South China Sea the next year, in June 2015, this time deployed to the west of the Paracels, much closer to China’s Hainan Island.