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Message-ID: <199711240925.EAA08472@access4.digex.net>
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 04:25:13 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
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From: Alex G Bardsley "bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: VN,PRC: New maritime dispute (StraitsTimes)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

X-URL: http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/stsea4.html

Vietnam, China in new maritime dispute

In the Straits Times
24 November 1997

HANOI -- Vietnam has protested to China after Beijing granted a US oil company exploration rights in waters which Hanoi claims as its exclusive economic zone, an official said yesterday. The Oct 20 decision to grant Atlantic Richfield Corp (Arco) oil and gas exploration rights could renew tension between the two countries.

Vietnam had sent a firm message to Beijing through "diplomatic channels", protesting against the contract which allowed Arco and state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) to develop a gasfield which partly overlapped Vietnamese territory, the official said.

"We have to remind them: 'You can do whatever you want, but only in your own waters'," said an official from the National Border Committee and the Continental Shelf Committee of the Marine Affairs Department.

He said the Arco concession extended 4.6 km into Vietnamese waters based on a median line calculated from the two countries' baselines.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has so far declined to issue any official comment.

Eight months ago, China sparked a diplomatic incident when it set up an exploration platform in waters claimed by Vietnam.

That dispute, in which Vietnam's Asean partners joined, ended when Beijing agreed to remove the platform from the Kantan 3 gas field.

Both Kantan and the Arco fields lie in waters between China's Hainan island and coastal Vietnam, which are not covered by existing treaties or negotiations between the two countries.

The disputed concession in the Ledong natural gasfield lies close to the gas-rich Yacheng field, where Arco and CNOOC are building an offshore pipeline to feed energy-hungry China.

The official said Vietnam had also contacted Arco, advising them to talk to Vietnamese state-owned PetroVietnam, to discuss a joint study of the area.

Earlier this week, official Vietnamese newspapers accused China of re-writing history to justify its maritime claims.

The Spratly islands, which the Vietnamese call Truong Sa, have long been a simmering focus of dispute between China and Vietnam.

The islands in the South China Sea are also claimed wholly or in part by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Vietnam and China have held regular ministerial-level talks on the sovereignty question since 1993 but little progress has been made.

Vietnam and China clashed twice over the Spratly islands, in 1988 and 1992. Although it is believed they sit on top of vast reserves of oil and gas, their commercial potential has never been confirmed.

Last month's move by Beijing was the latest of several attempts by both sides to award oil exploration contracts to make de facto claims on disputed territories.

In 1992, Beijing signed a contract with US firm Crestone Energy Corp to explore an area near the Spratly islands.

Last year, Hanoi awarded a joint venture contract to US-based Conoco in an offshore area also claimed by China. -- AFP.

Copyright 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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