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China to begin deep water drilling in disputed sea

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 5:19 a.m. HST, May 8, 2012

BEIJING >>  China's first deep water oil drill is ready to start production in the South China Sea amid a continuing standoff with the Philippines in another section of the contested waters.

The official Xinhua News Agency says China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s rig will start operations Wednesday in an area 200 miles southeast of Hong Kong. It will drill at a depth of almost 5,000 feet, Xinhua said in a report Tuesday.

The area where the platform will be stationed does not appear to be under dispute, but southeast of it, ships from China and the Philippines continue a standoff over Scarborough Shoal.

That dispute has been going on since April 10 when the Philippine navy accused Chinese boats of fishing illegally. Both countries claim the shoal.

China's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it had summoned a top Philippine diplomat in Beijing to complain about the standoff for the third time in recent weeks.

Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying told Charge D'affaires Alex Chua that the Philippines was escalating tensions and making it more difficult to reach a negotiated settlement to the standoff, the ministry quoted her as saying in a statement read on state television's national noon broadcast.

"It is hoped that the Philippine side will not misjudge the situation, and not escalate tensions without considering consequences," Fu said.

China submitted a map to the U.N. in 2009 claiming virtually the entire South China Sea, but has not clarified the exact extent of its claims to the 200 islands, coral outcrops and banks spread over the potentially resource rich waters. Other claimants are Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

In Manila, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez reiterated that the shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory. He added, without elaborating, that Filipino diplomats "are endeavouring to undertake a new diplomatic initiative, which we hope will help diffuse the situation."

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