China is consolidating its newfound authority over the international South China Sea by declaring it controls international waters off the coast of independent Vietnam.
“India’s intention to once again explore for oil in the disputed waters of the South China Sea is an unwise move, as it will further complicate the maritime disputes and do a disservice to maintaining the positive momentum that has been achieved in China-India ties,” declared the state-run China Daily, as translated by the Times of India.
“The Indian company should be told: Without the permission from the Chinese government, activities conducted by any foreign company in these disputed waters are illegal,” the editorial continued. The search is “illegal,” said China’s government. The Indian-owned oil company should “rethink its oil exploration plans,” China threatened.
Actually, India’s oil “exploration” is in partnership with Vietnam and has progressed far enough for the Indians to begin preparations for moving an oil platform into the area. Want China Times of Taiwan notes that the deal between an Indian company and Vietnam’s state-run PetroVietnam was signed three years before China opened international bidding on exploration of the waters under its control.
China is rapidly extending its naval force into the South China Sea, partly by building new islands with airbases. The ocean floor is believed to contain much oil and gas, and the nearby countries—China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia,and Japan—are arguing over which parts of the large sea are owned by each neighboring country.
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. and the U.S. Navy is doing little to slow or deter the Chinese expansion. Instead, U.S. foreign policy has been focused on trying to make Israel sign a peace deal with hostile neighbors.
The Times of India recalled that India has previously argued constructive economic activity should have no impact on the South China Sea territorial dispute. But the China Daily sweeps that argument aside: “New Delhi may deem its oil exploration activities in the South China Sea purely economic in nature. But, considering the already existing tensions in the South China Sea, New Delhi’s move will only aggravate the situation.”
The Indian government is advised by China Daily’s editors to “avoid taking missteps that may sabotage the good development of their ties” with China.
The Chinese editorial also took some time to fulminate against “the meddling of outside forces, such as the United States.”
The Indians may also be irritated by Chinese adventures in the Indian Ocean, which the Chinese military recently warned India to stop thinking of as its “backyard,” lest “clashes” break out.