Vietnam slams ‘illegal’ China oil rig in contested seas; China aims to boost military relations with Iran

This picture taken on May 21, 2012 shows China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC)’s first deep-water oil drilling rig leaving the port of Qingdao

Vietnam has labelled as “illegal” a decision by China to move a deep-water drilling rig into disputed waters in the South China Sea for the first time, and demanded it withdraw from the area.

The China Maritime Safety Administration issued a unilateral navigational warning on its website saying the rig would be drilling in the South China Sea close to the Paracel Islands — which are controlled by China but claimed by Vietnam.

The rig, operated by state-owned CNOOC, will drill from May 4 to August 15 and vessels are banned from entering an area within a three mile (4.8-kilometre) radius of the site, according to the statement.

An angry Vietnam said the area falls “within its special economic zone and continental shelf.”

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Meanwhile: China wants deeper defense ties with Iran, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told his Iranian counterpart on Monday, according to Chinese state media, as Beijing moves to cement already close ties with a major oil supplier.

Chang told Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan the development of bilateral relations has “remained positive and steady, featuring frequent high-level exchanges and deepened political mutual trust”, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Chang is “confident that the friendly relations between the two countries as well as the armed forces will be reinforced” due to “increased mutual visits and personnel training cooperation between the armed forces,” Xinhua added.

Dehqan “voiced the hope that the two countries will continue to play a positive role in safeguarding regional peace and stability,” the agency said.

It gave no other details.

China has exported arms to Iran, and last month expressed anger after Washington laid charges against a Chinese businessman accused of allegedly procuring missile parts for Iran.

China and Iran have close energy and trade ties, and Beijing has repeatedly resisted U.S.-led demands to impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.