China Protests Vietnamese Oil Exploration In Spratlys

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CHINA today sharply protested Vietnam's efforts to prospect for oil and natural gas in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Vietnam has been sending geological exploratory vessels to the Vanguard Bank area of the Spratly Islands archipelago off its southeastern coast since May, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

China, Vietnam, and four other nations claim all or part of the Spratlys.

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The archipelago straddles important shipping lanes, but also is believed to sit atop valuable oil and gas deposits. Chinese and Vietnamese warships briefly exchanged fire in 1988. Since then, both have said they want a peaceful solution and China has suggested joint development. China has contracted with a US company to explore and drill in a zone that includes the area where Vietnam was exploring, the official said. Vietnam has also signed a contract with Mobil Corporation to explore an area west of that zone. Taiwan and China spar over business

TAIWAN accused China yesterday of trying to drive a wedge between Taiwanese businessmen and their government as part of a campaign to isolate the island.

The Mainland Affairs Council, which makes policy on China, said Beijing officials have been meeting Taiwanese businessmen in China, promising to solve their problems and encouraging them to cooperate with mainland Chinese businesses. Taiwanese business has invested billions of dollars in China, and the government worries that its economy is over-dependent on the mainland.

Officials also worry that the flight of investment to China is eroding Taiwan's industrial base, and urge businesses to ``keep roots in Taiwan.'' China's actions are an attempt to sabotage this campaign, the report said.

Taiwanese officials want the problems encountered by their businessmen in China to be dealt with in semi-official contacts between the governments, rather than by the Chinese dealing directly with the businessmen.

But instead, the report said, Chinese officials recently met Taiwanese businessmen and told them to come to them with their problems.

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