By James Pearson
HANOI (Reuters) - Rosneft Vietnam BV, a unit of Russian state oil firm Rosneft, is concerned that its recent drilling in an area of the South China Sea that is claimed by China could upset Beijing, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.
China's U-shaped "nine-dash line" marks a vast expanses of the South China Sea that it claims, including large swathes of Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone. Maps of the area indicate the block is around 85 kms (53 miles) inside the contested area.
A series of dashes, the line is not continuous making China's claims often ambiguous. In recent years, though, China has increasingly patrolled and enforced the area, claiming historic rights to the resources and features within it.
That block is licensed to Spanish energy firm Repsol, which has asked Vietnam to pay compensation over the issue.
The Vietnamese foreign ministry did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
China's foreign ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment late on Wednesday.
Russia's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Rosneft declined to comment.
Fearing repercussions and pressure from China, Rosneft Vietnam had wanted to begin drilling with as little attention as possible, despite the statement by its parent company on Tuesday, the sources said.
PETROVIETNAM WARNED OVER PRODUCTION
The drilling in the "Red Orchid" gas field within the block will be undertaken using the "Hakuryu-5" equipment made by Japanese company Japan Drilling Co., Ltd , Rosneft said in that statement.
The Hakuryu-5 arrived in the disputed area on May 6, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon ship tracking data and was still recorded as being inside the block late on Wednesday.
The drilling is significant for Vietnam, which has been struggling to maintain its crude oil and gas output amid already declining production from its key fields and the continuing pressure from China in the disputed waters.
Police in the central province of Khanh Hoa have launched an investigation into a group of Chinese tourists who were pictured in a local airport wearing T-shirts printed with a map showing the "nine-dash line", state media reported on Wednesday.
Airport authorities asked the tourists, who arrived at Cam Ranh Airport on Sunday, to take off their T-shirts after going through customs, the Van Hoa (Culture) newspaper reported.
(Additional reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Martin Howell)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)