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China warns US to stay out of maritime spat
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 22, 2011

China on Wednesday warned the United States to stay out of the deepening territorial spat in the South China Sea and accused other countries in the region of provocation, a report said.

Vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said neighbouring countries, including Vietnam, were responsible for recent incidents in the disputed waters and dismissed calls for Washington to play a greater role in resolving tensions .

"I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the US won't be burned by this fire," Cui was quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying.

Tensions between China and other rival claimants to the strategically vital waters -- home to two potentially oil-rich archipelagos, the Paracels and Spratlys -- have escalated in recent weeks.

The Philippines and Vietnam in particular have expressed alarm at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed area, but Beijing has repeatedly said it was committed to resolving the issue peacefully.

US Senator John McCain on Monday called for Washington to expand military and political support to Southeast Asian nations to stand up to China over the increasingly volatile issue.

But Cui -- speaking ahead of weekend talks in Hawaii with US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on Asia-Pacific affairs -- said Washington should limit itself to urging "more restraint and responsible behaviour from those countries that have been frequently taking provocative actions".

"Some American friends may think the US can provide some help. We appreciate the gesture, but sometimes such help can only make things more complicated," he was quoted saying.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday China's territorial claims in the South China Sea did not interfere with other countries' right to travel in the hotly contested waters -- but maintained its sovereignty in the area.

"China's maintenance of sovereignty in the South China Sea and rising interest will never influence the freedom of navigation of other countries in the South China Sea," Hong told reporters.

"There has never been a problem with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."

Philippine leader firm on China dispute
Manila (AFP) June 22, 2011 - President Benigno Aquino vowed Wednesday that the Philippines would press its territorial claims in the South China Sea, despite the vast military superiority of its rival China.

Aquino also called on Beijing to follow international rules in seeking to resolve rival claims to the strategically important territory that includes the Spratly island chain, believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

"We are just protecting our rights because if you don't exercise your rights, then you will be abandoning them," Aquino told reporters.

"If we leave (the South China Sea), then they will just own it," he said.

Aquino said the overlapping claims, which also include those from Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, should be settled multilaterally under international accords such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"We expect China to adhere to that... We believe the basis for our claim is well-founded, especially under this treaty ratified by so many countries including China," he added.

He said that settlement under UNCLOS was in the interests of the other South East Asian claimants, the United States, the United Nations and all parties who use the sea lanes.

The Philippines interprets the convention as saying a country has exclusive economic rights over waters within 200 nautical miles of its continental shelf.

The country has recently become more active in defending its claim in the South China Sea despite its lack of military resources to enforce it.

Earlier this month the Philippine Navy dispatched its flagship, an ageing World War II vessel, to patrol the South China Sea after China said it was sending a maritime patrol vessel through the area.

Manila has also accused China of being behind several provocative incidents in the Spratlys in recent months.

Singapore on Monday joined the debate, urging China to be more open about the extent of its territorial claims and saying Beijing's lack of openness was causing international concern.

The Philippine military meanwhile said it would soon start repair of its airstrip in Thitu island in the Spratlys, which the country occupies.

"The order of our commander in chief is to do it as soon as possible," said Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in the western Philippines.

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Transocean accuses BP of neglecting risks in oil spill
Geneva (AFP) June 22, 2011 - Offshore drilling group Transocean on Wednesday charged Wednesday that British energy giant BP had neglected drilling risks, leading to the giant 2010 oil disaster off the US coast.

It said that an internal "report concludes that the Macondo incident was the result of a succession of interrelated well design, construction, and temporary abandonment decisions that compromised the integrity of the well and compounded the likelihood of its failure," said Transocean, which owned the rig leased by BP.

"The decisions, many made by the operator, BP, in the two weeks leading up to the incident, were driven by BP's knowledge that the geological window for safe drilling was becoming increasingly narrow," it charged.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and causing millions of gallons of oil to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.

The group said its investigation team found "evidence ... that BP failed to properly assess, manage and communicate risk to its contractors."

Among the elements that the company failed to communicate to the drill crew was the inadequacy of testing on the cement used in the well construction, Transocean said.

In addition, BP neglected to carry out certain risk assessments at the Macondo well, claimed Transocean.

Contacted by AFP, BP declined comment on the Transocean charges.

BP has sued Transocean for damages of $40 billion (27 billion euros) over the disaster and Transocean in turn, has counter-sued.

In April, the US Coast Guard slammed Transocean's "poor safety culture" in a report.

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Encana rejects shale gas deal with PetroChina
Montreal (AFP) June 21, 2011
Canadian energy giant Encana said Tuesday it has ended talks with China's state-owned PetroChina on a joint venture to develop a major shale gas project. Encana, North America's top gas producer, said the two parties were unable to agree on key elements of the proposed deal, including the joint operating agreement. PetroChina had proposed to invest Canadian $5.4 billion (US $5.5 billion) ... read more

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