Vietnam backs India's oil exploration in South China Sea

Vietnam today asserted that India has the right to pursue oil exploration and related works in the South China Sea, which is within Vietnamese "exclusive economic zone".

Vietnam's assertion comes amidst China's growing assertiveness over the South China Sea, where Vietnam has awarded ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) a contract for 'exploration and exploitation work'.

Vietnam today asserted that OVL's "exploration and exploitation work" in South China Sea were within Vietnamese "exclusive economic zone".

Addressing a joint press meeting with external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, Vietnam's foreign minister Pham Binh Minh said both sides had discussed the South and East China Seas and had stated their position that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) needs to be respected.

"Our position is that we need to respect the law of UNCLOS to solve the issues in the South China Sea, for peaceful resolution," the Vietnam minister said.

He said both sides had also reaffirmed that all the countries bordering the South and East China Sea have rights to their exclusive economic zones, and that India can pursue ''exploration and exploitation work in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam''.

The remarks came in the backdrop of continued Chinese objections over oil exploration projects undertaken by India in Vietnamese oil blocks.

China objects to India's oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese side of the South China Sea claiming it to be entirely within its sphere of activity.

Khurshid said that India is committed to continue its bilateral collaboration with Vietnam 'in the field of exploration', adding that these are commercial ventures by Indian companies.

Khurshid also said that India has indicated that any contentious issue 'should be settled in a peaceful manner, through dialogue'.