CHINA told Vietnam to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and not to harass Chinese fishing boats.
 
Vietnam expelled Chinese fishing vessels from waters near China’s southern Hainan Province last Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
 
Vietnam said a Vietnamese ship had a seismic cable it was pulling cut by two Chinese fishing ships.
 
"Vietnam’s statement is inconsistent with the facts," Hong said, adding the Chinese boats were in an area where Vietnam’s claim overlaps with waters of Hainan.
 
New Chinese regulations allow Hainan police to board vessels deemed to be intruding in waters off the island.
 
"The relevant fishing vessels were in these waters conducting regular fishing activities and they were unreasonably expelled by Vietnamese military vessels," Hong said.
 
He said China and Vietnam were currently in negotiations over the waters.
 
"We hope the Vietnam side will not engage in unilateral oil and gas exploration activities in the relevant waters, cease interfering with Chinese fishing vessels’ normal operations, and create a friendly atmosphere for bilateral negotiations," Hong said.
 
India, which jointly conducts some oil exploration with Vietnam, said this week it was prepared to send ships into the region to safeguard its interests.
 
China aims to produce 15 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from the South China Sea by 2015, the energy administration said on Monday.
 
State-run CNOOC, China’s top offshore oil producer, in late June invited foreign companies to jointly develop nine blocks in the western part of the sea.
 
 
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