Xisha oil drilling probe concludes

By Cathy Wong Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-17 0:48:01

Platform’s move unconnected to external factors: FM

China's foreign ministry confirmed Wednesday that China has successfully completed exploratory oil drilling near the Xisha Islands on Tuesday, a month ahead of schedule.

Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told the press that the operation of China's Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig, which started on May 2 in waters off Zhongjian Island in the Xisha Islands, had successfully concluded on Tuesday. The drilling rig has been moved to work on a project in Lingshui, Hainan.

There were indications of oil and gas reserves in the area, according to a statement on China National Petroleum Corporation's (CNPC) website, and the company will then assess the geological data obtained and map out the next step.

The operation of the State-owned CNPC and China Oilfield Services Limited, previously scheduled to finish in mid-August, was completed earlier than expected despite continuing disruption from Vietnam.

Deployment of the rig triggered violent anti-China riots in May in Vietnam, while a large number of vessels were sent to the area by Hanoi to disrupt the Chinese operation, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

"The Xisha Islands are integral parts of China," Hong reaffirmed Wednesday, "The operation by the Chinese company is located in indisputable coastal waters of the Xisha Islands, which falls well within China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction."

Hong added China "firmly opposes Vietnam's unjustified disruptions against the Chinese company's operation" and has "taken necessary measures to guarantee the security of the operation."

The row with Vietnam is part of the convoluted maritime disputes in the South China Sea, in which the US has persistently intervened. 

"It has nothing to do with any external factor," noted Hong in explaining the early withdrawal, adding the relocation is in accordance with the company's plan of operations at sea.

"The US should stop acting as the mediator over the South China Sea disputes and  stirring up conflict among Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and the Philippines," Wang Xiaopeng, a maritime border expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

In response to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs's call on July 11 that the claimants in the South China Sea should freeze all operations in the region, China's foreign ministry Tuesday demanded the US should remain neutral in the South China Sea dispute and respect efforts made toward peace and stability.

"The early conclusion of the oil rig operation has no connection with US influence," said Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

Wu said the operation's original duration was a conservative estimate as the company "reserved more time than actually needed," and added the exploration has run smoothly due to a period of good weather. 

Posted in: Diplomacy, Asia-Pacific

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