The disagreement, the latest in a string of arguments over the potentially energy-rich sea, erupted earlier in the week when China National Offshore Oil Corp. said it was offering a new batch of oil-exploration blocks inside the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone granted to Vietnam under the United Nations' Law of the Sea.
Vietnam's government quickly objected, saying the Chinese state oil firm was moving into its territorial waters. On Wednesday, state-run Vietnam Oil & Gas, or PetroVietnam, weighed in, showing how territorial claims in the sea are increasingly being backed up by powerful companies in addition to rival governments, and potentially adding new sources of tension to the conflict.
PetroVietnam Chairman Do Van Hauon Wednesday described the Chinese firm's strategy as illegal and urged it to cancel the bidding, adding that two of the blocks offered by China National Offshore Oil, known as Cnooc, overlap with those offered by PetroVietnam.
"We strongly protest Cnooc's offering to international companies and we request foreign firms not to get involved," Mr. Hau told reporters.
Cnooc's spokesman in charge of legal affairs wasn't available to comment. At an earlier news briefing, China's Foreign Ministry said Cnooc's tender represented "normal business activities" in line with Chinese law and international practice.
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