BEIJING, June 12 (UPI) -- Vietnamese claims a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters near the Xisha Islands is under military escort are wrong, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday there were government vessels near the rig, though they are there to provide operational security rather than military support, the official Xinhua News Agency reports.
The spokeswoman said Chinese oil operations in the region are part of normal activities in its maritime territory. Vietnam, she added, was acting as the aggressor in the case by working to disrupt normal drilling operations through illegal means.
Both sides claim the maritime territory in the South China Sea as their own. Beijing this week sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon making its case in a row that began in early May.
The official Vietnam News reported this week the rig was repositioned under military escort. Government surveillance officials said the rig was accompanied by six warships, 13 cargo vessels and 19 tugboats
Hua said drilling operations have been ongoing for the last 10 years and the current program, which began May 2, should continue through the middle of August.