China to India: Don’t explore oil in South China Sea

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In yet another round of sovereignty dispute after Kashmir, China today asked India and other countries to refrain from oil exploration in maritime areas offered by Vietnam in the South China Sea. China said that it enjoys “indisputable sovereignty” in the South China Sea. ONGC Videsh plans to undertake oil exploration in two Vietnam blocks in South China Sea.

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The territorial and maritime claims in between the two Asian giants is not a new thing. China has deployed as much as 11000 Red Army in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to carry out “developmental activities”. Despite India’s objections, Beijing has turned a deaf ears to Indian concerns in the Kashmir dispute. It covertly supports Pakistan’s stance and has got gifted a significant territory of the POK to itself. The disputes over stapled visas and claims along Arunachal and other borders have only added to the mistrust between the two countries.

In the ongoing maritime dispute in the South China Sea, earlier this month, a Chinese warship confronted an Indian naval vessel shortly after it left Vietnamese waters in late July. Both the countries denied the incident.

The South China Issue: Claims and Counter Claims

“I would like to reaffirm that China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and the island. China’s stand is based on historical facts and international law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu told a media briefing without directly referring to India.

“We are opposed to any country engaged in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China’s jurisdiction.
We hope the foreign countries do not get involved in South China sea dispute”, Jiang said.

India today dismissed Chinese objections over its oil exploration projects in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea, saying its cooperation with Vietnam was as per international laws and it would like the cooperation to grow.

The Chinese spokeswomen claimed that the UN convention did not give any country the right to expand their own Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf to other countries territories. She added that the convention did not negate China’s consistently claim based on history.

Beijing had in a demarche — a formal diplomatic representation of a government’s official position — to India stated that unless its permission is taken for exploration in Blocks 127 and 128, (ONGC Videsh Limited) OVL’s activities there would be illegal. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is reaching Vietnamese capital Hanoi tomorrow.

China claims the entire South China Sea and is involved in maritime disputes with host of countries of ASEAN and Japan. China and Vietnam, besides Philippines had a major spat over the issue recently after Chinese maritime vessels stopped exploration activities in the waters they claim as theirs.

US is actively engaged in backing the rights of different countries over the waters of South China Sea contesting the Chinese claims and this is the first time India joined the fray.

The Dispute and the claims

Vietnam cites sovereignty rights over Blocks 127 and 128 according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982.

There are many potentially oil- and gas-rich islands on the South China Sea, which are facing territorial disputes and where, apart from China, other countries including Vietnam are claimants.

Vietnam claims rights to the Paracel Islands, which China first occupied in 1974. The Spratly Islands are another area under dispute, with Vietnam and China staking their claims.

In June 2007, UK’s energy major BP abandoned exploration plans in a block between Vietnam and the Spratly Islands, citing ongoing uncertainty over competing ownership claims between Vietnam and China.

(With PTI inputs)



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