China said it agreed with Vietnam on Monday July 4 to jointly explore for oil in disputed areas in the South China Sea, and to invite the Philippines to participate, China’s state media reported. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and several other nations have competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, an area believed to be rich in oil and mineral deposits.
China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted a non-binding declaration two-years ago that forbids construction of new buildings on uninhabited islands in the Spratlys to prevent the territorial disputes from escalating.
On the sidelines of a regional summit in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, Premier Wen Jiabao told his Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Van Khai, on Monday that he hoped oil companies from the three countries would start joint prospecting soon, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Khai said his country would work with China and the Philippines to promote the three-way joint development, Xinhua said. The two leaders said they agreed on the cooperation, but there was no mention of any formal agreement being signed.
No further details of the agreement were given.
The Philippines was not represented at the summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion, which groups China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.