On March 23, 2018, Reuters reported that Vietnam had halted an oil drilling project off its southeastern coast. The project is located at the “Red Emperor,” which is part of the 07/03 block in the Nam Con Son basin. The block lies 440 km from Vung Tau and close to China’s “nine-dash line,” which marks China’s unilateral — and universally rejected — territorially claim. Spanish energy firm Repsol, which has the license to the block, is now at risk of losing $200 million already invested in the project. The BBC suggests that the work was halted to avoid confrontation with China.
In July 2017, Repsol was ordered by the Vietnamese government to halt its development drilling work on Block 136/03, which is adjacent to “Red Emperor.” This decision was reportedly made after Chinese leadership threatened Vietnamese outposts. If accurate, this would mean that the Chinese government has pressured Vietnam to suspend major drilling projects twice in the past twelve months.