June 28th, 2012 | Global Times Oil exploration bids ‘legal’
The Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday iterated the legitimacy of an oil exploration plan in the South China Sea by the country’s largest offshore oil producer, which is seeking foreign partners amid ongoing disputes with Vietnam over sovereignty issues.
Publishing the areas up for public bids is a “normal business activity,” which is in line with relevant Chinese laws and international practices, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei during yesterday’s press briefing.
Hong’s remarks came after the State-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) released an announcement on its website Monday, sending bidding invitations to foreign oil and gas companies to jointly explore nine blocks of water in the South China Sea.
The nine blocks, 300 to 4,000 meters deep, cover a total area of over 160,000 square kilometers, according to the notice. Seven of them are located in the Zhongjianan Basin and the other two are in the Wan’an and Nanweixi basins.
The move by China’s oil giant has aroused dissatisfaction from Vietnam, who has also claimed sovereignty over the areas.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Luong Thanh Nghi said Tuesday that China’s solicitation of public bids is an “illegal act” that has seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereign rights, and the company should “immediately cancel” the invitation.
Hong said yesterday that Vietnam should abide by the consensus reached between the two countries on the settlement of disputes and drop any actions that might complicate and escalate the situation, urging Vietnam to cease its oil and gas exploration activities which infringe upon China’s sovereignty.
He also said on Tuesday that China is committed to properly settling disputes through negotiations, including joint exploration projects with Vietnam.
Experts yesterday suggested that the moves by China, which have included designating cities as administration centers to watch over the disputed waters and seeking international business partnerships, would assist in safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty after provocations by Vietnam.
“China has made a breakthrough by taking this step. Vietnam should be responsible for what it did, and it’s not a time for China to be too nice,” said Sun Xiaoying, researcher on Southeast Asia studies with the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.
The exploration blocks, close to the Wan’an bank where Vietnam has already begun oil exploration projects, have abundant oil and gasoline resources, Sun said, adding that CNOOC’s bidding areas are within the Nine Segment Lines.
With approval from the State Council, the Ministry of Civil Affairs announced the establishment of Sansha city on June 21, shortly after Vietnam passed a maritime law that includes China’s Xisha and Nansha Islands in the South China Sea as being within Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction.
The city is designated as having jurisdiction over the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their adjacent waters.
This is the second time that CNOOC attempted to explore oil resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea. The company entered into an arrangement with a US company regarding gasoline exploration and cooperation in the 1990s, but the project fell through after protests from Vietnam.
CNOOC did not respond to queries from the Global Times regarding the bidding process as of last night’s deadlines.
A patrol team consisting of four China Marine Surveillance ships on Tuesday sailed from south China’s coastal city of Sanya to the South China Sea to conduct regular patrols, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
By Yan Shuang