Vietnam asks India to extract oil in contested sea

The Shenyang J-11 is among the jets apparently deployed on the militarised Woody Island. Source: Wikimedia

Vietnam has asked India to explore and exploit natural resources within the sector it claims in the South China Sea where China has deployed fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles. The area falls within Hanoi’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Vietnam has sovereign rights and jurisdiction within 200 nautical miles of our EEZ and continental shelf in accordance with UNCLOS 1982 [UN Convention on Law of the Sea]. We are determined to protect our rights and maintain regular activities in our sovereign waters. Accordingly, we shall continue to cooperate with other countries including India to explore and exploit resources within our 200-nautical-mile EEZ,” Vietnam’s ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh announced.

This week Chinese Shenyang J-11 and Xian JH-7 warplanes have been identified on Woody Island in the contested Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Hanoi.

Thanh said: “Let us be sure and clear that both Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam. We have full historical evidence and legal foundation to confirm our sovereignty over these islands, which in fact have been owned and controlled peacefully and continuously by Vietnam since the 17th century when no other countries claimed their sovereignty over these islands. We are determined to protect our sovereignty over these islands.”

Delhi has signed a defence partnership with Hanoi and it recently placed satellite tracking systems in Vietnam. Now it has been awarded oil blocks. Despite Beijing’s protests, India’s presence continues. ONGC Videsh Limited supplies oil to Vietnam from the sea.

Thanh continued: “We appreciate the position of India on resolving the South China Sea disputes peacefully, without threat or actual use of force, and early concluding a code of conduct on the South China Sea. In my view, the settlement of the maritime disputes between India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal by using the UN’s arbitration tribunal is a good example for the claimants in South China Sea to solve their problems.”

India has repeatedly called for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea through which more than 50 per cent of its trade with East and Southeast Asia is carried.

China’s deployment of jets to Woody Island follows intense militarisation. A US think tank reported this week that Beijing may be installing a high-frequency radar system on the Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly Islands that could significantly boost its ability to block other nations’ access to the contested waters.

Last week, Washington accused Beijing of inflaming tensions by deploying surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island.