China has said it is moving a second oil rig closer to Vietnam's coast, despite a tense confrontation with Vietnam over another oil rig to the south, according to reports. 

The 600 metre long rig is being towed southeast of its current position south of Hainan Island and will be in its new location closer to Vietnam by Friday, the Maritime Safety Administration said on its website on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press news agency, a Vietnamese foreign ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Hanoi believed that no country should take unilateral action in contested waters, but that China had explored the area previously without causing a crisis in relations.

Vietnamese authorities also broke up a small protest against the Chinese move on Thursday when about a dozen people gathered at a park in central Hanoi and chanted anti-China slogans.

Deadlocked talks

The shifting of the rig came as officials from both sides said they made no progress in talks on Wednesday over the deployment of the other Chinese rig on May 1 that sparked the current standoff.

Each country claims the Paracels as its territory and accuses the other of instigating the ship rammings around the rig.

The first rig's deployment triggered anti-China demonstrations across Vietnam that led to attacks on hundreds of factories believed to employ Chinese workers, five of whom were killed and hundreds more injured.

The border between China and Vietnam in the area of the second rig near the mouth of the Tonkin Gulf has never been properly demarcated, despite five rounds of talks on the matter.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is rich in natural resources and criss-crossed by some of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Source: AP