China called on Myanmar and Bangladesh to settle their dispute over oil and natural-gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal that triggered a naval standoff in waters contested by the two countries
China called on Myanmar and Bangladesh to settle their dispute over oil and natural-gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal that triggered a naval standoff in waters contested by the two countries.
Bangladesh deployed warships to the area about 93 kilometers (58 miles) southwest of St. Martin's island earlier this week after a Myanmar ship, escorted by three naval vessels, began oil and gas exploration.
Bangladesh says the area falls within its territorial waters and summoned Myanmar's ambassador before sending envoys to the nation formerly known as Burma.
"We hope the countries will settle it through equal and friendly negotiations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing yesterday, according to the official Xinhua news agency. "As their friend, China will contribute in an appropriate manner."
The impoverished neighbors have failed to agree on a maritime border as they vie to control as much of the potentially energy rich Bay of Bengal as possible. Myanmar late yesterday rejected Bangladesh's demand that it stop drilling, Xinhua said, citing a government statement.
"When the test drilling was being conducted, neighboring Bangladesh claimed that the AD-7 block falls within its territorial waters and lawlessly demanded that the drilling should be suspended immediately," Myanmar's ruling junta said in the statement carried on state television, Xinhua reported.
"To protect the interest of our own country in accordance with the international laws" the drilling will carry on until it is concluded, the government said, according to Xinhua.
China, the world's fastest-growing major economy, is a key ally of Myanmar and last year won the rights to buy gas from the country's biggest field.
Myanmar had 21.19 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, or 0.3 percent of the world's total, while Bangladesh had 13.77 trillion cubic feet, or 0.2 percent, at the end of 2007, according to BP Plc. Most of this is located in the Bay of Bengal, though not all as it includes onshore fields.
Myanmar and Bangladesh had per capita gross domestic product of $1,900 and $1,400 respectively in 2007, according to U.S. government data.
A delegation from Myanmar is scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, Nov. 16 for a two-day visit to discuss the issue, a Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Nov. 4.