BEIJING, May 11 (Xinhua) -- China's drilling operation in the vicinity of Xisha Islands -- an inalienable part of China -- is perfectly lawful and falls within China's sovereignty. Yet, such a regular operation meeting international law has been wilfully cited as a "cause for collision".
From May 3 to 7, Vietnam dispatched 36 vessels, including warships, into waters near the Chinese oil rig to harass the drilling operation, deliberately and rampantly ramming Chinese boats for as many as 171 times.
To the surprise of Chinese crew members, Vietnamese frogmen were found just 5 meters away from Chinese ships in intimidation, in addition to illegal placement of numerous broken fishing nets and large obstacles in obstruction in the waters.
The Vietnamese side, of course, has created a quite different story and framed up charges, blaming China for the row, hyping an outdated "China threat" claim and stirring up waves in the already unpeaceful South China Sea.
Contrary to Vietnamese claims, China is placing the oil rig in an undisputed area in its own territorial waters, which is only 17 nautical miles (27 km) away from Xisha Islands, and which is as far as 150 nautical miles (241 km) from Vietnam.
As China's Foreign Ministry has said, the Vietnamese harassment is a serious violation of international law and a severe infringement upon Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity, and, as it jeopardizes normal navigation security, also puts regional navigation freedom in danger.
Besides trying to sabotaging China's oil exploration, Vietnam is using the incident as an excuse to tarnish the image of China in the Southeast Asian community and the world at large.
Stoking fear and soliciting outside interference in regional situation, however, just runs counter to bilateral and regional interests.
China and Vietnam have in recent years witnessed good momentum in the development of bilateral relations, with both sides agreeing to deepen strategic cooperation and properly handle maritime issues.
The two sides have also set up working groups on maritime cooperation and jointly developed resources in the waters outside the mouth of the Beibu Bay, a key achievement of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit last year.
Such laudable progress should not be overshadowed by periodic maritime rows, which could stand in the way of the mutual benefits of the two peoples.
China, as the world's second largest economy, is a responsible stakeholder in regional and world affairs. It is, as witnessed by neighboring countries, striving for a peaceful and prosperous Asia to share with others the benefits of its fast growth.
As experts have said, China's peaceful rise is pivotal to regional prospects. It would be helpful for regional players to stop provoking and escalating tensions simply because China is a big neighbor.
Just as this oil rig incident has shown, China is maintaining utmost restraint, not wishing to see any unnecessary conflict arising from unfounded mistrust.
The vast South China Sea offers abundant opportunities for cooperation and the joint growth of China and surrounding countries.
For that to happen, all sides must hold on to this belief and let reason and vision prevail in their decision on immediate actions.