Seemingly undeterred by the outrage over the first oil rig, Beijing is now dispatching four new platforms to the South China Sea. Reuters reports:
Coordinates posted on the website of China’s Maritime Safety Administration showed the Nanhai number 2 and 5 rigs had been deployed roughly between China’s southern Guangdong province and the Pratas Islands, which are occupied by Taiwan. The Nanhai 4 rig was towed to waters close to the Chinese coast.Earlier this week, the maritime body gave coordinates for a fourth rig, the Nanhai 9, which would be positioned just outside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone by Friday. […]China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province and claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, said the rigs were in waters close to Guangdong province and Hainan island. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the sea.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the South China Sea contains 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in “proven and probable” reserves. Most of these offshore reserves lie in undisputed waters. But even sending rigs into China’s own territory may seen as provocative by the country’s neighbors.Meanwhile, the U.S. is set to hold joint naval drills with the Philippines later this month. The U.S. insists that these exercises are an “annual event,” but the timing and the location of the drills—just 80 nautical miles away from Chinese vessels patrolling a shoal China took from the Philippines two years ago—certainly raise eyebrows.