South China Sea: Vietnam halts drilling after ‘China threats’
Vietnam and other neighbours contest China’s territorial claims in the area
Vietnam has reportedly terminated a gas-drilling expedition in a disputed area of the South China Sea, following strong threats from China.
A source in the south-east Asian oil industry has told the BBC that the company behind the drilling, Repsol of Spain, was ordered to leave the area.
It comes only days after it had confirmed the existence of a major gas field.
Those reports have been corroborated by a Vietnamese diplomatic source.
According to the industry source, Repsol executives were told last week by the government in Hanoi that China had threatened to attack Vietnamese bases in the Spratly Islands if the drilling did not stop.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also contested by other nations.
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The drilling expedition began last month in an area of sea about 400km (250 miles) off Vietnam’s south-east coast.
The Vietnamese call the region Block 136-03 and have leased it to a company called Talisman-Vietnam, a subsidiary of Repsol.
China calls it Wanan Bei-21 and has leased the same piece of seabed to a different company.
Exactly which company is not clear. In 2015, the Chinese rights were sold to a Hong Kong-listed company called Brightoil, but it has recently denied owning them.