Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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'Remove Oil Rig From Paracel Islands,' Vietnam Warns China as New Prime Minister Assumes Office

Paracel Islands.

(Photo : Getty Images) Vietnam's new leadership has instructed China to remove its oil rig stationed near the Paracel Islands.

In a new development in the South China Sea dispute, Vietnam on Thursday demanded that China removes its oil exploration rig near the Paracel Islands until both countries negotiate on an agreeable demarcation line.  

"Vietnam resolutely opposes and demands that China abandon drilling plans and immediately withdraw the Hai Duong 981 oil rig from this area, and that it not take additional unilateral actions that further complicate the situation," Vietnam's Foreign Minster spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement.

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Binh said that Vietnam has lodged its protest with Chinese embassy in Hanoi. However, there has not been any official statement from China regarding Vietnam's demand.

Hanoi's demands come a day after Vietnam witnessed change in its top leadership. Nguyen Xuan Phuc was sworn in as new Prime Minister of Vietnam on Thursday, and he pledged to protect the country's sovereignty at all cost.           

Tension has mounted between Vietnam and China recently over a maritime dispute. The Vietnamese and Chinese coast guard have clashed recently as the latter accuses Chinese fishermen of crossing into its territory. Vietnamese officials on Monday announced that they seized a Chinese vessel after it allegedly intruded into their maritime territory last week. The operation led to the arrest of a Capitan and two sailors, all of whom are Chinese citizens.              

Oil Rig Incident Escalated Tension Between China and Vietnam in 2014     

In May 2014, China stationed oil rig HD-981 very near to Parcel island, which Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone. China's provocative move immediately led to tension between the two countries, with deadly riots and protests across Vietnam.               

Several Chinese-owned factories and companies were burnt down during the nationwide unrest.

Paracel Islands is one of several islands in the highly disputed South China Sea. It is claimed by three countries - China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Several other islands and reefs of South China Sea are also marked with overlapping claims by China and several of its smaller neighbors.

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