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US warns China on interference with Vietnam's South China Sea oil, gas operations

Washington — The US on Thursday warned China against interfering with oil and gas operations off the coast of Vietnam.

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"The United States is deeply concerned that China is continuing its interference with Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone claim," Morgan Ortagus, a US State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement Thursday.

Ortagus said China's activities offshore Vietnam call "into serious question China's commitment... to the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes."

On August 13, the Chinese government deployed an oil survey vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, and armed escorts into waters offshore Vietnam near Vanguard Bank, disputed waters in the South China Sea. The vessel had been deployed to these waters in July as well.

"In recent weeks, China has taken a series of aggressive steps to interfere with ASEAN claimants' longstanding, well-established economic activities, in an attempt both to coerce them to reject partnerships with foreign oil and gas firms, and to work only with China's state-owned enterprises," Ortagus said. "In the case of Vanguard Bank, China is pressuring Vietnam over its work with a Russian energy firm and other international partners."

-- Brian Scheid,

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles,