China tells Vietnam to halt oil exploration in disputed waters

Thu Dec 6, 2012 4:26am EST
 

By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - China told Vietnam on Thursday to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and not harass Chinese fishing boats, again raising tensions in a protracted maritime territorial dispute with its neighbor.

Vietnam had already expelled Chinese fishing vessels from waters near China's southern Hainan province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

Hong's description of the confrontation last Friday was in contrast to the account by Vietnam, which said a Vietnamese ship had a seismic cable it was pulling cut by two Chinese fishing ships.

"Vietnam's statement is inconsistent with the facts," Hong said.

China is in increasingly angry disputes with neighbors including the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia over claims to parts of the potentially oil and gas-rich South China Sea. China, which lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes, also has a separate dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

The Chinese fishing boats were in an area where Vietnam's claim overlaps with waters of Hainan province, Hong said.

New Chinese regulations allow police to board vessels deemed to be intruding in waters off the island of Hainan, though details about how this could happen have not been made clear.

"The relevant fishing vessels were in these waters conducting regular fishing activities and they were unreasonably expelled by Vietnamese military vessels," Hong said.   Continued...