Vietnam, China make no progress in talks about oil rig deployed in disputed South China Sea

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HANOI, Vietnam – A top Chinese diplomat and Vietnamese officials made no progress in talks Wednesday about an increasingly bitter confrontation over a giant oil rig China deployed in the disputed South China Sea, officials said.

State Councilor Yang Jiechi was the most senior Chinese diplomat to visit Vietnam since China placed the rig off the Vietnamese coast last month. Both countries have accused the other of violating territorial rights and instigating clashes between ships around the rig.

A Vietnamese official familiar with the talks said that no progress was made during the discussion between Yang and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said that the two sides still insisted on their opposing positions.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Yang blamed Vietnam for interfering with the rig’s operations and causing the present difficulties in their bilateral relations.

Yang said Vietnam should stop the disruptions and take measures to secure Chinese property and people in Vietnam, according to an account of his remarks released by ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

The rig’s deployment in early May triggered anti-China demonstrations and some turned to riots, which resulted in the deaths of five Chinese nationals and injures to hundreds more. Hundreds of factories were damaged and dozens were burnt. Many of them were built with Taiwanese investment.

Yang also met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong later in the day and was to attend a dinner hosted by Minh.

Minh told Yang that the meeting, the highest direct contact since the May standoff over the oil installation, showed a commitment to resolving the dispute.

Prime Minister Dung said last month that Vietnam was considering legal action against the Chinese move.

The two ideological allies fought a brief but bloody border war in 1979, and skirmishes also occurred in 1988 when China used force to occupy the Johnson South reef in the Spratlys. Relations were normalized in 1991.

China claims most of the South China Sea, rich in natural resources and one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, bringing it into disputes with neighbours, including the Philippines, a U.S. ally.

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