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Daily Press Briefing on May 27, 2014 About Vietnam Spratly Islands Dispute with China on Reports of Sinking Ship and Oil Rig


May 28, 2014

SOURCE: U.S. State Department

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 27, 2014

South China Sea / Reports of Sinking Ship / Oil Rig / Encourage Parties to Lower Tensions

QUESTION: And I’d like to move to the South China Sea, if that’s okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So a Vietnamese boat was sunk after a collision with a Chinese vessel in the South China Sea, and the Vietnamese have accused the Chinese vessel of intentionally colliding into the ship to sink it. So does the State Department have any comments on that? Do you assess that it was the fault of the Chinese for the sinking of the ship, or —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware of the report of the sinking ship. We don’t have independent information on that front, and so we’re seeking additional information. We remain concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area by the Chinese. We continue to call on all parties to exercise restraint and take steps to lower the tensions and conduct themselves in a safe and, of course, professional manner.

QUESTION: And lastly, the Vietnamese media is reporting that the Chinese have augmented its South China Sea oil rig contingent with an attack missile boat and also a minesweeper. Has the State Department seen any indications to corroborate that?

MS. PSAKI: We’re aware also of these reports. We’re also seeking additional information. If China continues to maintain the rig and escalate tensions in these disputed waters, our position will remain the same, which is that these are provocative actions that continue to raise tensions and we’ll continue to express concerns at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) China?

QUESTION: You express concern about Chinese actions in the area; do you have any concern about Vietnamese actions? Do you believe that anything Vietnam has done is provocative?


QUESTION: I’m just curious if it’s both sides or if it’s just the Chinese who’s —

MS. PSAKI: It’s – the provocative actions have largely been from the Chinese side.

QUESTION: Okay. And then when you say you’re seeking additional information about this incident – from whom? From the Vietnamese, from the Chinese? Do you – from anybody?

MS. PSAKI: From any party that has additional information, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. To the – for – to what end? I mean, will there be some kind of consequence if it’s —

MS. PSAKI: Well, simply what I mean is we can’t confirm the details because we don’t have the – I don’t have those – we don’t have —

QUESTION: Okay. But it’s not like some kind of an investigation that could have a policy implication or something.

MS. PSAKI: No, I wasn’t inferring that.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, as these continue to escalate, that continues to be concerning to all of us.

More on this topic? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another topic on China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yes. I’m not sure you are aware of this. The Chinese assistant of Nikkei newspaper in Chongqing bureau in China was detained about two weeks ago. According to the explanation of Chinese press department – Beijing Chinese press department – was she was suspected making some trouble in society or something like this. And I did – it is reported that she’s tried to have a contact with Pu Zhiqiang, who is a very famous lawyer and activist for freedom of press or democracy. Yeah, actually the suspect is the same as the Chinese assistant of Nikkei newspapers. How do you and does the United States see these issues and have some comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are – let me see if I have anything on this specific case. I’m not sure that I do, so why don’t I talk to our team about that and see if we can get more clarification?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Scott?

QUESTION: Chinese oil rigs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re careful to say that the United States doesn’t have a position on these disputed waters.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a position about the location of this Chinese oil rig being – is it 150 miles off shore, and is it within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t take a position on the sovereignty, as you know, of this area, so that hasn’t changed. And I’m not going to speculate on kind of the distance between islands and what that means. Our issue here is about the provocative actions taken by the Chinese as it relates to the Vietnamese fishing boats and reports of aggression from their end. So again, we encourage the sides to maintain dialogue with each other, but we’re not going to weigh in on speculation about their location and what it means.


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