China paper condemns Vietnam-India energy cooperation

Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:22am GMT

By Michael Martina

BEIJING, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A joint energy project between India and Vietnam in the South China Sea infringes on China's territorial sovereignty, an official Chinese newspaper said on Thursday in the first reaction to the operation by China's state media.

The report in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, said the oil and gas exploration project between Indian and Vietnamese state-owned firms west of the disputed Spratly islands put at risk the two countries' relations with their chief trading partner.

"Two sections enter waters under China's jurisdiction, constituting a violation of China's sovereignty," it said.

The report said that if Vietnam and India pursued any joint interest that damaged relations with China "as well as the stability and peaceful economic development of the entire South China Sea region, the losses will outweigh the gains".

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday that any such project was "illegal and invalid" without China's consent, but did not name specific countries or companies.

India's foreign office said last week that Indian companies, including ONGC Videsh (OVL) and Essar Oil subsidiary Essar Exploration and Production Limited, were expanding energy cooperation with Vietnam.

India has sought to increase its involvement in the region, and an Indian navy vessel was challenged off Vietnam's Nha Trang port earlier this year by a radio caller claiming to be from China's navy.

Analysts also say India's increased engagement with Vietnam is partly in response to Chinese projects boosting Beijing's presence in South Asia, particularly in port construction.   Continued...

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