Beijing: China on Thursday asked Vietnam to immediately stop "unilateral" oil exploration in the disputed waters in the South China Sea, days after Chinese boats reportedly damaged a seismic ship of the Vietnamese state-owned oil firm, raising tensions in the region.
"Vietnam should immediately stop unilateral oil exploration in that part of the (disputed) sea and stop interrupting Chinese fishing boats so as to create conducive atmosphere for relevant negotiations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing here today.
About Vietnam`s allegations that its seismic ship was damaged by Chinese boats, Hong said, "Vietnam`s allegation is inconsistent with facts. To our knowledge the sea area claimed by Vietnam is in the overlapping areas between China`s Hainan island and Vietnam and our side."
The Chinese were carrying fisheries activities in that part of the sea which is completely justified and they were unreasonably dispersed by the Vietnamese naval ship, Hong alleged.
"The two countries are involved in negotiations on the demarcation of the area and common development of that part of the sea," he said, asking Vietnam to stop interrupting Chinese boats.
Two days ago Vietnam`s state-owned oil and gas company PetroVietnam has alleged that Chinese fishing boats sabotaged one of its seismic survey ships 69-km from the small island of Con Co in the South China Sea.
It said two Chinese fishing boats had cut across cables being laid by the survey vessel Binh Minh 2 off the coast of central Vietnam.
"PetroVietnam vehemently protests the Chinese fishing boats` action against the Binh Minh 2," Pham Viet Dung, the deputy head of exploration at the company, said in a statement.
"We ask that China educate its citizens to respect Vietnamese waters," he said according to reports from Hanoi.
Vietnam along with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan had disputes with China over the islands and the maritime boundaries.
Earlier, China had cautioned India against any moves to pursue oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea along with Vietnam saying that it is opposed to countries outside the region to intervene in the disputes.
"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 reacting to comments by Indian Navy Chief D K Joshi`s reported remarks that Indian navy is prepared to deploy vessels to the sea to defend the South Asian country`s economic interests there.
India`s Oil and Natural Gas Commission is helping Vietnam in oil exploration which in the past has come up for criticism from China.
Vietnam along with the Philippines have already protested to China about printing of the disputed maps in passports.
Vietnam is issuing stapled visas for Chinese tourists to avoid directing stamping of the visas while India too has problems with map as it showed several of the disputed areas and issuing visas with seal of the Indian map.