21:44 GMT19 January 2021
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    Hanoi has struck back following calls from Beijing to stop oil exploration in Block 136-03 of the South China Sea. China claims a huge section of the sea and has been ramping up construction of defensive installations in some sections, despite competing claims by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations.

    "Vietnam’s petroleum-related activities take place in the sea entirely under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Vietnam established in accordance with international law," Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said Friday.

    However, Beijing reportedly threatened to attack Vietnamese positions in the Spratly Islands of the sea if an oil discovery operation led by Respol was not called off on July 15.

    Following media reports, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that "China urges the relevant parties to cease the relevant unilateral infringing activities," adding that “practical action” had been taken to ensure the maintenance of "the hard-earned positive situation in the South China Sea."

    Repsol has rights to explore the oil field at stake through a lease with Hanoi. The Spanish oil firm has poured $300 million into developing Block 136-03. Hanoi "proposes all concerned parties to respect the legitimate rights and interest of Vietnam," its Foreign Ministry added on Friday.

    While the BBC had reported that the oil expedition was called off in response to China’s ultimatum, "Thomson Reuters data showed the drilling ship Deepsea Metro I was in the same position on Friday as it had been since drilling began on the block in the middle of June," Business Insider reported Friday. 


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