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India stands firm on South China Sea
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Dec 4, 2012

Vietnam issues China rebuke over sea sabotage claim
Hanoi (AFP) Dec 4, 2012 - Vietnam on Tuesday said it had formally complained to Beijing over claims Chinese fishing vessels sabotaged a boat owned by energy giant PetroVietnam in the latest tensions over the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing must "immediately end this wrongdoing and not allow similar acts to reoccur", Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said in a statement. He added that the incident "violated Vietnam's sovereignty".

PetroVietnam's geological survey vessel, the Binh Minh 2, was operating in Vietnamese territorial waters on Friday when it was approached by a number of Chinese fishing vessels which cuts its exploration cables, Vietnam News reported.

Vietnam and China have a long-standing dispute in the South China Sea over their competing claims to the Paracel and Spratly islands, both potentially resource-rich rocky outcrops that straddle key shipping lanes.

Beijing last week announced new rules, which appear to allow police to board foreign ships in the disputed South China Sea.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has also signed a decree authorising a new "specialised force" to be deployed from January 25 to stop foreign vessels that violate fishing laws in Vietnam's waters, according to a post on the government's official website on Friday.

The South China Sea is strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources. Vietnam has begun exploring for oil in what it claims as its territorial waters.

The PetroVietnam standoff is the second such incident in 18 months, with Chinese vessels accused of cutting the cables of the Binh Minh 2 in May last year, prompting Hanoi to demand compensation from Beijing.

China's increasingly assertive role in the South China Sea has raised tensions with other countries in the region as well as the United States.

Last week, Vietnamese border guards told AFP they were refusing to stamp entry visas in China's controversial new passports, which feature a map of Beijing's claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

Other claimants to parts of the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Amid increasing tensions in the South China Sea, India said its navy would protect the country's interests, which include oil exploration blocs off the coast of Vietnam, in the disputed waters.

Indian navy Chief Adm. D.K. Joshi on Monday said that although India isn't a direct claimant in the South China Sea, its main concern was "freedom of navigation in international waters," The Hindu newspaper reports.

Chinese regulations, approved last week by the coastal province of Hainan, which administers the South China Sea for China, appear to authorize Chinese police to board foreign vessels around disputed islands in the area, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Joshi said the "modernization" of the Chinese navy was "a major, major cause for concern" and that India would work out its options and strategies.

The admiral cited India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp.'s exploration blocks in the South China Sea as a reason for the navy to show its presence when necessary.

"Not that we expect to be in those waters very, very frequently but when the requirement is there, for example, in situations where our country's interests are involved, for example ONGC, ONGC Videsh, etc., we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that," Joshi said.

Joshi added: "Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes."

ONGC Videsh has invested $600 million in oil and gas exploration in three offshore deep-water blocks on the southern Vietnamese coast.

China maintains it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea, while Vietnam asserts competing claims over parts of the sea, including the Spratly Islands. The disputed waters are also claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

The South China Sea's oil reserves are estimated to be 23 billion-30 billion tons, with natural gas reserves believed to total about 16 trillion cubic meters, says China Ministry of Land and Resources.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, when asked what the Chinese government would do if the Indian navy went to protect its oil interests in the South China Sea, said that China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the sea and adjacent waters, Voice of America reports.

Hong added that Beijing opposes oil and gas development in the South China Sea and that he hopes concerned countries will respect China's position and rights.

State-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. in August opened 26 offshore blocks -- 22 of which are in the South China Sea -- for development in cooperation with foreign companies.


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