Beijing on Monday warned other countries not to get involved in a long-running sovereignty dispute with its neighbors in the South China Sea, as official media warned India not to go ahead with an oil exploration deal with Vietnam.
“The South China Sea disputes should be addressed through negotiations between nations that are directly involved,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, Liu’s comments were a response to proposals by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba for a multilateral framework to settle maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
“We hope that countries outside of the region do more work that is conducive to peace and stability in the region of the South China Sea, and show more respect and support to nations within the region that are making efforts to solve disputes through bilateral talks and negotiations,” Liu said.
His comments came amid official media warnings to India over a planned oil exploration deal, and at the start of joint military drills in the region by U.S. and Philippines marines.
On Sunday, a newspaper backed by China’s ruling Communist Party warned that India was playing with fire by agreeing to explore for oil with Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea.
The China Energy News said in a commentary that India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp should abandon a three-year deal with PetroVietnam to develop long-term cooperation in the oil sector.
“On the question of cooperation with Vietnam, the bottom line for Indian companies is that they must not enter into the disputed waters of the South China Sea,” the paper said.
“Challenging the core interests of a large, rising country for unknown oil at the bottom of the sea will not only lead to a crushing defeat for the Indian oil company, but will most likely seriously harm India’s whole energy security and interrupt its economic development,” it warned.
It said Indian oil companies should “turn around at the soonest opportunity and leave the South China Sea.”
Vietnam and China, as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.
The Philippines and Vietnam have said they are alarmed by increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed waters.
U.S. marines began a round of annual military drills with the Philippines on Monday, including a hostile beach assault exercise near the disputed Spratly Islands.
But U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Nick Eisenbeiser said the maneuvers were not aimed at China or any country as an imaginary target.
“They shouldn’t get worried,” Eisenbeiser told The Associated Press, when asked if the exercises were meant to send a message to China, whose growing naval power has set off concerns in the region.
“We’re assisting the Chinese in ensuring that their region is peaceful.”
The exercises will run from Oct. 17-28.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.