That Sinking Feeling

Crew members of deep-water drilling rig CNOOC 981 gather to watch a drill bit go down to explore in the South China Sea, south China, May 9, 2012. (Xinhua/Jin Liangkuai)

It is not so much that China’s largest offshore oil company, CNOOC, has started drilling for oil and gas with the country’s first home-developed deep-sea rig, it is more where it is doing so–in the South China Sea. This is Beijing dropping a big marker, so to speak, for its claim to sovereignty over waters to which many nations lay claim.

The rig, CNOOC 981 (above), is able to drill to 3,000 meters; previously, China could only drill up to 500 meters. It is operating some 300 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong between the Paracel Islands, claimed by China and Vietnam, and the Macclesfield Bank, claimed by China and Taiwan. Not too far away lies the Scarborough Shoal, scene of a month-long stand-off between China and the Philippines.

While Chinese fishing fleets have been plying the disputed waters, and sparking diplomatic spats, for years, Beijing has been slow to start exploration for the energy and mineral riches that lie beneath the South China Sea, in part to stop the fisheries tiffs, and the bombastic claims of sovereignty that invariably accompany them, from getting out of hand. That drilling has now started for the 23 billion-30 billion tonnes of oil and 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas believed to lie beneath the South China Sea–equivalent to one half of China’s existing onshore oil and gas reserves–suggests that the hawks are playing a stronger hand as well as talking one.

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5 Comments

Filed under China-Southeast Asia, Energy

5 responses to “That Sinking Feeling

  1. meralgiaparesthetica

    China’s claims are hitorically sound and far from “bombastic”. The Philippines’ claims are weak and, for a weak nation with weak grounds, truly bombastic and deliberately provocative.
    Here’s a start: It is known to all that Huangyan Island and surrounding waters have been an integral part of China since ancient times, and the Philippines’ claim over its sovereignty is groundless and self-contradictory.

    As late as the 1980s, maps published in the Philippines showed that Huangyan Island is outside of its territory.

    Having repeatedly stated that the island was not within its territory, the Philippines had never disputed over China’s claim to the island and surrounding waters before 1997.

    Over-enthusiasm of the powers, such as the United States, over the South China Sea has been a major factor prompting Manila’s stab at exploiting foreign intervention over its groundless territorial claim.

    Contrary to its expectations, Manila does not seem to have gain much-wanted backing from its “patron” when Washington expressed hope that the disputes will be resolved through “dialogues” and “consensual means.”

    History shows that meddling by outsiders will only backfire.

    The Philippines needs to reflect on what its people had suffered in their struggle for the solution of the issue concerning the U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base on its territory.

    Since the incident over Huangyan Island occurred, the Chinese government has lodged solemn representations on various occasions to the Philippines, urging Manila to refrain from taking any action that might escalate tensions and make due efforts to restore peace and stability on the South China Sea.

    In an effort to de-escalate tension, the Chinese side has voluntarily withdrawn two law enforcement vessels from the waters.

    China’s goodwill moves, however, should never be misinterpreted as being weak and easily bullied.

    It is clear to all parties concerned that China’s sovereignty over the Huangyan Island has solid historical and legal basis, and its claim is in line with international law. The Chinese government’s determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity is “resolute and unmistakable.”

    As close neighbors, China and the Philippines have forged close links in areas such as economy and trade, and enjoyed a broad prospect for future cooperation.

    It is China’s hope that the Philippine side will bear the overall situation in mind, adhere to the consensus to refrain from any possible action to escalate and complicate the issue and make due efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and promote the development of bilateral relations.

    Any attempt to resort to external forces to mess the issue up is unwise and doomed to failure.

    Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2012-04/26/c_131552977.htm

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