China-India Clash Over Oil In South China Sea

December 5, 2012Chinaby EW News Desk Team

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China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned India to respect “China’s sovereignty and national interests” in the South China Sea, after India’s Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi suggested this week that New Delhi was ready to deploy vessels in order to protect their economic interests in the region.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei sharply rebuked Admiral Joshi’s remarks; and reasserting his nation’s stance over the contested waters, in which several countries, including Vietnam and Philippines, have made separate claims to territory.

“China opposes any unilateral oil and gas exploration activities in disputed areas in the South China Sea and hopes relevant countries respect China's sovereignty and national interests, as well as the efforts of countries within the region to resolve disputes through bilateral negotiations," Hong Lei said in a statement cited by the state-owned Global Times.

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The Global Times also highlighted that India was not a direct claimant of any disputed islands in the South China Sea, but rather had signed an agreement with Vietnam last year to explore oil and gas in disputed waters.

"The real threat posed by India to China is the military cooperation between India and Vietnam. Moreover, India is now controlling several Indian Ocean islands at the entrance of the Malacca Strait, an international energy channel that sees 80 percent of Chinese oil imports passing by every year," said Du Jifeng, an Asia-Pacific issues researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“As for China, India poses far less of a threat than the US and Japan, because what India can offer to Southeast Asian nations is much less than what the US and Japan can offer," Zhuang added.

On Monday, Admiral Joshi had noted that the modernisation of China’s navy was “truly impressive”, but called it a “major concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategy.”

Responding to reporters’ questions over their shared oil exploration blocks with Vietnam, Admiral Joshi further said that they were “prepared” to go into the region if their interests were at stake.

"It is 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," the admiral said.

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

India has invested close to $600 million in oil and gas exploration in the three offshore deep-water blocks along the southern Vietnamese coast. China however maintains its sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, which is claimed in part by Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

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