Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Vietnam okays joint offshore oil exploration with China

Vietnam's prime minister has given the go-ahead for joint oil exploration between Chinese and Vietnamese state oil companies in the Gulf of Tonkin, state media reported Friday.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the Vietnam Petroleum Corporation (PetroVietnam) agreed on the project in mid-November, said the Vietnam News Agency without providing further details.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told PetroVietnam to work with government ministries to ensure the project is in line with Vietnam's laws and delivers economic benefits to the country, said the brief report.

PetroVietnam officials declined to comment.

Known and suspected energy reserves in the South China Sea have long fueled historic disputes that have centred on the Spratly and Paracel islands, between China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Beijing and Hanoi have also yet to agree on a common sea border in the Gulf of Tonkin, which China calls the Beibu Gulf, located between northern Vietnam and southern China in the northern part of the South China Sea.