Beijing: China said today that it was exercising "maximum restraint" in its ongoing confrontation with Vietnam over a Chinese oil rig deployed in disputed waters and won`t send its navy to the area.
Chinese ships have been rammed more than 1,500 times by Vietnamese vessels since the dispute began more than a month ago, Foreign Ministry official Yi Xianliang told reporters. Vietnam accuses Chinese ships of doing the ramming.
China currently has 71 vessels on station to enforce a security cordon around the rig, including 32 coast guard vessels, Yi said. But he said there were no plans to send warships to the area.
"This is a minimal response. We have exercised maximum restraint," said Yi, the ministry`s deputy director general of its Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.
Yi said the ships were there merely to protect the rig and that Vietnam was the aggressor. However, he said the Chinese vessels must take defensive action against Vietnamese ships that attempt to break through the security cordon.Vietnam has accused China of smashing into its vessels and sinking one.
China sent the rig into the disputed waters on May 1, leading to confrontations with Vietnamese ships, complaints from Hanoi and street protests that turned into bloody anti-Chinese riots. Hundreds of factories were damaged, and China said four of its citizens were "brutally killed" and more than 300 injured.
The oil platform is located about 32 kilometres from the China-controlled Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, and 278 kilometres from the coast of Vietnam.
Both Vietnam and China have taken the dispute to the United Nations, circulating rival documents among the UN General Assembly`s 193 member states. Vietnam has said it is considering legal action against China in an international court, something Yi said China firmly rejected.
Yi reiterated that China doesn`t acknowledge a dispute over the Paracels, but denied Vietnam`s accusation that Beijing refuses to engage in dialogue over the placement of the rig. China and Vietnam have had more than 30 exchanges over the issue, most of which were initiated by Beijing, he said.
"We believe that China and Vietnam have the patience and wisdom to resolve our differences through bilateral channels," Yi said.