June 13, 2014 2:32 am JST

High-seas standoff continues between China, Vietnam

MANABU ITO, Nikkei staff writer

HANOI -- Sino-Vietnamese tensions remain elevated a month and a half since China positioned an oil rig in contested waters in the South China Sea, and with more than 100 ships from both sides plying the area as of Thursday, no end of the discord is in sight.

     China has two if not three cordons of ships deployed in the area around the rig, according to Vietnam's Coast Guard and fisheries surveillance force. When patrol boats or other Vietnamese vessels come close to the site to demand the rig's removal, they are chased off by multiple Chinese ships.

     Hanoi has spoken with Beijing more than 30 times, but no agreement has been reached. Since Vietnam wants to avoid military conflict, its options are limited to pleading its case to the United Nations and foreign governments.

     Economic concerns deepen by the day. The Vietnam Center for Economics and Policy Research at Vietnam National University projects gross domestic product growth of 4.15% to 4.88% this year, falling short of the government's 5.8% target, due to a slump in Chinese tourism and trade.

     The costs of the confrontation, such as those incurred by dispatching ships to the location, are steadily mounting. The Vietnamese government does not have deep pockets, and it likely hopes to avoid having the standoff drag on.