Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien Daily | Vietnam dismisses China's objection to Russian oil exploration in East Sea All of Vietnam's oil and gas projects with foreign partners, including with Russia's Gazprom, are "within Vietnamâ€™s sovereignty" and in accordance with international laws, foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said Thursday. He was replying to a question from a media correspondent about reports that China had recently asked Russia to stop exploring for gas in the East Sea. â€œVietnam welcomes foreign partners to cooperate with Vietnamese companies in the oil and gas sector within Vietnamâ€™s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and on the basis of Vietnamâ€™s laws,â€ he said. â€œVietnam pledges [to protect] and is responsible for protecting the rights and legitimate interests of foreign partners in Vietnam." On April 5 the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) signed a deal for gas exploration with Gazprom, according to a report on VnExpress. The Russian energy giant owns a 49 percent stake in the partnership, and PetroVietnam the rest. It was not the first time that China voiced its objection to foreign countries cooperating with Vietnam for oil and gas projects in Vietnam's water the East Sea. Last September it warned Indian companies against entering into oil and gas agreements with Vietnam after it was reported that India planned to work with Vietnam for exploring two offshore blocks. Also at the press conference, Nghi again demanded that China unconditionally release the 21 fishermen arrested by its fisheries agency on March 3 when they were fishing off Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. The agency has demanded a ransom of US$233,000 for the release. â€œWe have stated many times Vietnamâ€™s standpoint to China at different levels,â€ Nghi said. â€œChina needs to respect the standpoint and soon meet Vietnamâ€™s requirements, not letting the case affect the countriesâ€™ relationship.â€ Asked about the recent encounter between Chinese surveillance ships and a Philippine naval ship in the East Sea, Nghi said Vietnam has taken cognizance of the incident. â€œThe related parties need to avoid actions that complicate the situation, affecting the peace and stability of the East Sea and the region,â€ he said.