China took its dispute with Vietnam over the deployment of an oil rig in contested waters to the United Nations, accusing Hanoi of infringing on its sovereignty and illegally disrupting a Chinese company's drilling operation.
China's deputy ambassador Wang Min sent a "position paper" on the rig's operation in the South China Sea to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday and asked the UN chief to circulate it to the 193 members of the General Assembly.
China sent the rig into disputed waters on May 1, provoking a confrontation with Vietnamese ships, complaints from Hanoi and street protests that turned into bloody anti-Chinese riots. Hundreds of factories were damaged and China said in the paper that four Chinese citizens were "brutally killed" and more than 300 injured.
The oil platform is located about 32km from the China -controlled Paracel Islands, which Vietnam also claims, and 278km from the Vietnam coast.
According to the paper, the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation has been conducting seismic operations and well site surveys in the area for the past 10 years and the drilling operation "is a continuation of the routine process of explorations and falls well within China's sovereignty and jurisdiction".
China accused Vietnam of "illegally and forcefully" disrupting the rig's operation by sending armed ships and ramming Chinese vessels.
"Vietnam also sent frogmen and other underwater agents to the area, and dropped large numbers of obstacles, including fishing nets and floating objects, in the waters," it said.
The paper said Vietnam's actions violated China's sovereignty, posed "grave threats" to Chinese personnel on the rig and violated international laws including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It cited numerous references to back its claims that the islands "are an inherent part of China's territory, over which there is no dispute".
Calls to Vietnam's UN Mission and its spokesman seeking comment were not answered.
Vietnam, which has no hope of competing with China militarily, said soon after the US$1 billion deep-sea rig was deployed that it wanted a peaceful solution, but a top official warned that "all restraint had a limit".
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying yesterday vented strong language towards Hanoi, saying that Beijing had to go to the UN to defend its position.
"On the one hand, they carried out more disruptions on the scene. On the other hand, they spread rumours in the international community, slinging mud and attacking China," she said at a regular briefing in Beijing.
"Given this, we find it necessary to tell the international world what really happened so as to set the record straight."
China on Monday expressed displeasure after Vietnamese and Filipino troops played football and volleyball on Sunday on a contested island in the Spratlys, with the foreign ministry denouncing the activity as "a farce".
A policy document released at the weekend accused Vietnam of ramming its ships more than 1,000 times in the oil rig dispute, but said Beijing wanted good relations with its neighbour.
Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse