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Vietnam says China moving rig again; China denies sending warships

Published on Jun 11, 2014 5:45 PM
This picture taken from a Vietnam Coast Guard ship on May 14, 2014, shows a Vietnam Coast Guard ship (second right, dark blue) trying to make way amongst several China Coast Guard ships near to the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig (right, background) being installed in the disputed waters in the South China Sea off Vietnam's central coast. -- PHOTO: AFP

HANOI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese oil rig at the centre of an increasingly bitter territorial dispute appeared to be on the move again, as China denied Vietnamese accusations that it had sent warships to the scene.

Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, including coast guard vessels, have squared off around the rig despite a series of collisions after the platform was towed to the area in early May.

In a statement, Vietnam's Directorate of Fisheries said the rig had shown signs of moving towards the east and south-east. China had 119 vessels in the rig's operating area, it added, including six naval ships and four circling military aircraft.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying dismissed as "completely incorrect" the accusations that China had sent six warships, adding that the rig operations were commercial in nature. "Because Vietnam keeps forcefully and illegally carrying out interference, we have sent official Chinese government ships to guarantee security on the scene, but we have not sent military ships," she told a daily news briefing.

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