An employee of the exploration firm Rosneft Vietnam looks out from the Lan Tay gas platform in the South China Sea off the coast of Vung Tau. (Reuters Photo) When a Chinese state-owned survey vessel sailed into waters off Vietnam’s coast in early July, it unleashed a high-seas standoff with trillions of dollars at stake that risks drawing in Russia and the United States.For weeks now the Haiyang Dizhi 8 has zigzagged across a square block of water to study the seabed in an active drilling block operated by the Russian exploration company Rosneft Oil. Satellite images show more than a dozen Chinese and Vietnamese coast guard ships manoeuvring around the surveyor, which at one point included a heavily armoured Chinese cutter known as “The Beast” that is larger than most American destroyers. The location is particularly worrying for smaller countries looking to extract oil and gas from disputed parts of the South China Sea: It sits three times closer to Vietnam than to the Chinese mainland. While Beijing has long sought to disrupt exploration in parts of the sea that fall under its expansive claims, its naval buildup and moves to construct military assets on disputed reefs have allowed it… Read full this story
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