China and Vietnam Issue Exploration Rights To Disputed Areas
In a demonstration carefully kept under control, Vietnamese demonstrators protested against the Chinese near the War Memorial in Hanoi. The demonstration went on, but the police kept the demonstrators away from the embassy.
The protesters were there in support of a law passed by the Vietnamese National Assembly asserting the country's claims in the South China Sea, based on the Law of the Sea and the exclusive economic zone.
China claims the same area on the basis of historic traditions that are unrecognized.
The Chinese have pushed back in a few ways. A day after the Vietnamese legislature passed the law, the National People's Congress - the Chinese legislature - called upon Hanoi to amend the legislation, while the Vietnamese ambassador to Beijing was called in to hear a formal protest.
He was told that China expects Vietnam to act in ways that are conducive to bilateral ties and the peace and stability of the South China Sea.
In another way of disregarding the Vietnamese law, a Chinese oil company, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, put on offer oil exploration blocks for international companies to bid on. The bids are for areas that Vietnam claims and has already divvied up to foreign oil companies, including Russia's Gazprom.
PetroVietnam President and CEO, Do Van Hau, told a news briefing in Hanoi on June 27 that the Vietnam-owned oil and gas company would go ahead with the recently signed exploration contracts with foreign companies despite the competing offer by the Chinese company.
China has applied pressure on international oil giants, such as BP and ExxonMobil, to withdraw from the Vietnamese project.
China also sought to assert control municipally by assigning administration over the disputed territory to a Chinese city.
From verbal exchanges, the dispute escalated today when China sent four surveillance ships to the disputed area after the presence of a foreign fishing vessel was spotted on its radar.
China's Defense Ministry has already announced the formation of a regular combat-ready patrol system "in seas under our control" and warned: "The Chinese military's resolve and will to defend territorial sovereignty and protect our maritime rights and interests is firm and unshakeable."