BEIJING, July 22 (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it had told Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) to pull out of an oil exploration deal with Vietnam that it sees as a breach of Chinese sovereignty.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported the deal on Sunday, describing it as a preliminary cooperation agreement between Exxon Mobil and state oil firm PetroVietnam that covers exploration in the South China Sea.
“China’s position on the South China Sea is clear and consistent. On the specific case, we have stated our position to relevant parties,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.
“China opposes any activities that infringe on our sovereignty and territorial integrity in the South China Sea.”
China and Vietnam have a number of festering disagreements over territory, including disputed sovereignty in the Spratly Islands, a string of rocky outcrops in the South China Sea that could contain oil and gas deposits.
The islands are also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The South China Morning Post quoted sources as saying Exxon Mobil was confident of Vietnam’s sovereign rights to the blocks in question.
The newspaper also cited Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung as saying that Hanoi’s dealings fell entirely within the country’s legal rights.
Reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Nick Macfie