Kiet : China’s claim over oilfield unacceptable

Asia Society business conference ——————————–

VIETNAM yesterday dismissed China’s claim of sovereignty over the Blue Dragon oilfield in the Vietnamese continental shelf as “totally unacceptable”, but said Hanoi would not go to war with Beijing over it.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet told The Straits Times in an interview: “We have to defend our territories. But there is no reason for us to use force in this instance because there has been an improvement in relations between China and Vietnam.”

The state-run PetroVietnam oil company is working with Mobil on exploring the Blue Dragon (Than Long) field, which the Vietnamese government claims is not part of the Spratlys.

But China has said that the zone on the Vietnamese continental shelf should be transferred to the disputed Spratly-island chain – claimed wholly or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Said Mr Kiet: “Their claim to our territory is out of the question but we will try to resolve it by peaceful means.”

Vietnam had called for measures to ease tensions.

Mr Kiet said Hanoi and Beijing were also pursuing diplomatic means to resolve their dispute over the Paracel islands, which both countries are claiming.

“The Paracel issue is separate from the Spratlys dispute. It is strictly between Vietnam and China and can be solved through negotiation,” he said.

China is reported to have deployed warplanes at an air base on the largest island in the Paracel chain to expand its striking power over the region.

But Mr Kiet said it was unlikely that the two countries would use force, as they did in 1988 over the disputed islands when their navies clashed.

“The trend in the world and the region is economic growth and development. It will not benefit China and Vietnam to go to war,” he said.

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