June 27th, 2012 | Shanghai Daily South China Sea areas to be open for oil exploration
NINE offshore areas in the South China Sea are to be made available for exploration in cooperation with foreign companies, according to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
The nine areas collectively total more than 160,000 square kilometers, CNOOC said yesterday on its website.
Asked at a regular news briefing in Beijing if the decision would create tensions with Vietnam, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the tender project was a “normal business activity” in compliance with relevant Chinese laws and international practices.
He said China repeated its call for Vietnam to respect bilateral agreements regarding maritime disputes and to halt its gas exploitation program.
“China and Vietnam have reached many agreements regarding the settlement of maritime disputes.
“We hope Vietnam will respect these agreements and avoid taking any action that may complicate the matter,” Hong said.
“China’s position on disputes regarding the South China Sea remains unchanged. We are committed to properly settling disputes through negotiations and joint exploitation,” he added.
Vietnam’s National Assembly last Thursday passed the “Vietnamese Law of the Sea,” which describes China’s Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands in the South China Sea as being within Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun subsequently summoned Vietnamese Ambassador to China Nguyen Van Tho to lodge a complaint over the matter. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, has also sent a letter to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Vietnamese National Assembly to voice its opposition to the law.
Meanwhile, four China Marine Surveillance ships sailed from the coastal city of Sanya to the South China Sea yesterday to conduct regular patrols.
According to an unnamed CMS official, the team is expected to travel more than 2,400 nautical miles (4,500 kilometers) during the patrols, adding that formation drills will be conducted “if maritime conditions permit.”
The official said regular patrols began in 2006 as part of China’s efforts to protect its marine interests.
The CMS, a group under the State Oceanic Administration, is responsible for preventing the illegal use of sea areas and harm to the marine environment and resources, and for maintaining maritime order.