BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhua) -- China on Tuesday repeated its call for Vietnam to respect bilateral agreements regarding maritime disputes and halt its gas exploitation program.
"China and Vietnam have reached many agreements regarding the settlement of maritime disputes. We hope Vietnam will respect these agreements and avoid taking any action that may complicate the matter," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing.
His comments came in response to a question regarding a decision by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to make nine offshore areas in the South China Sea available for exploration through cooperation with foreign companies.
The nine areas collectively total more than 160,000 square km in size, according to a statement on CNOOC's website.
When asked whether the company's move in the South China Sea will create tensions with Vietnam, Hong said CNOOC's tender project is a "normal business activity" that is in compliance with relevant Chinese laws and international practices.
"China's position on disputes regarding the South China Sea remains unchanged. We are committed to properly settling disputes through negotiations and joint exploitation," the spokesman said.
Vietnam's National Assembly last Thursday passed the "Vietnamese Law of the Sea," which describes China's Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands in the South China Sea as being within Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun subsequently summoned Vietnamese Ambassador to China Nguyen Van Tho to lodge a complaint over the matter.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress, China's top legislature, has sent a letter to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Vietnamese National Assembly to voice its opposition to the law.