has started drilling for oil in disputed territory claimed by China
in the South China
Sea, a report says.
An oil drilling ship on contract to international firm Talisman-Vietnam has begun working off Vietnam’s southeast coast, the BBC quoted Ian Cross, an oil industry consultant at the Singapore-based Moyes & Co, as saying on Wednesday.
The ship Deepsea Metro I began drilling in an area of the sea about 400 kilometers off the Vietnamese coast on June 21, according to the report, which also speculated that the news
about the drilling had not been officially publicized by Vietnam due to the “extreme sensitivity” of the matter.
China and Vietnam are traditional allies, but they have been engaged in a dispute over territory in the South China Sea. In 2014, military ships belonging to the two sides confronted each other near the Paracel Islands in the sea.
The South China Sea is a major transit route and is believed to be rich in mineral and gas resources. China claims almost the entire sea, where Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei also have competing claims.
This file image shows a disputed island in the South China Sea, where China has carried out development work. (By AFP)
China has been carrying out development programs in the sea, building artificial islands, airstrips, and military installations. While Western countries have been condemning those activities, China’s rival claimants have been largely silent about them.
Last year, an international tribunal in The Hague voted against China in a lawsuit filed by the Philippines regarding territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing dismissed the court verdict. And the Philippines took no concrete action to have the ruling enforced apart from deploying military forces to a disputed island it already had under its control.
It was not clear if China knew about the Vietnamese oil drilling. Beijing was yet to comment on the BBC report as of Wednesday afternoon China time.
The United States has been an active supporter of China’s rival claimants. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has likened China’s development plans in the disputed territories to the Crimean Peninsula’s accession to Russia in 2014.