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'New' name for island sparks fury from Beijing

Updated: 2012-05-08 03:02
By Zhang Yunbi and Zhou Yan ( China Daily)

Beijing slams Manila as oil rig launch in South China Sea looms

Beijing on Monday slammed Manila's attempt to "rename" Huangyan Island as China is set to launch its first deepwater oil rig in the South China Sea.

Manila declared on Thursday that it would "rename" Huangyan Island as Panatag Shoal, and is considering removing signs on the island related to China.

Manila also planned to involve other countries and organizations in the dispute by raising the issue before international tribunals.

The Foreign Ministry warned on Monday that Manila's actions targeting Huangyan Island are "illegal and invalid", and will not change the fact that the island belongs to China.

"We strongly urge the Philippines to return to diplomacy," and any remark or move that complicates or intensifies the situation is nonsensical, Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news conference in Beijing.

Beijing's stance in resolving the situation through diplomacy is "unchanged," Hong added.

Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China's territory for centuries.

The Philippines did not challenge China's sovereignty over the island until 1997.

Manila's latest actions over Huangyan Island have incited a nationalist fervor among the Philippine public, Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University warned.

A Philippine warship entered the island's territorial waters on April 10, and dispatched personnel to harass Chinese fishing boats and attempted to detain Chinese fishermen.

The move infringed sovereignty. Two Chinese patrol ships in the area came to the fishermen's rescue, and the warship left.

But the impasse continues as Philippine vessels were reported still to be in China's territorial waters on Monday.

In-depth oil drills

Meanwhile, China's first home-made deepwater rig will formally start operations on Wednesday in the South China Sea.

The move is widely expected to pave the way for mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring countries.

China National Offshore Oil Corp, owner and operator of the platform, said on Monday that deep-sea equipment, capable of operating at depths of 3,000 meters, will drill the first well 320 kilometers southeast of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

It demonstrates China's technological capacity to explore and develop oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, said Zhou Shouwei, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The operation of the rig will also play a positive role in turning the sea into a peaceful area that countries can jointly develop," said Zhou, a former deputy general manager of CNOOC. He was closely involved in the six-year project to build the rig.

About 70 percent of oil and gas reserves in the resource-rich South China Sea are more than 300 meters deep across an area of 1.54 million square kilometers.

However, most of China's current offshore oil exploration is conducted less than 300 meters below the surface.

The South China Sea is estimated to have 23 billion to 30 billion tons of oil and 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, accounting for one-third of China's total oil and gas resources.

Estimates of resources in the South China Sea vary as the territorial issues have blocked the development in the region.

China, the world's second-biggest oil consumer saw its annual petroleum consumption rise from 220 million tons in 2000 to 470 million tons in 2011. It lags far behind its neighbors in the region in terms of oil exploration.

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