China's gas proposal needs careful handling

Jun 21, 2004 02:00 AM

Some Japanese government officials warned that Tokyo must handle carefully a Chinese proposal to consider joint development of an offshore gas field in the East China Sea.
"We must not jump at the proposal," one government official said in reference to a natural gas rig project by a Chinese consortium near Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Earlier in the day, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing proposed that Japan and China consider joint development of the gas field in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in the Chinese city of Qingdao. The proposal followed Japan's complaint that the gas project could violate its EEZ, which was lodged with Beijing earlier this month after the Japanese government learned that the construction of a drilling facility had started.
The facility is located near the intermediate line dividing the two countries' EEZs. Japan argues it has a right to claim its share if a vein of resources found in the Chinese zone straddles the borderline.

According to the government sources, China has repeatedly made the same proposal in bilateral consultations aimed at determining the borderline of each other's EEZ. Japan rejected the idea, claiming that the borderline needs to be decided first. A Japanese diplomatic source, however, cast doubts on the cost effectiveness if Japan solely pursues natural gas development in the East China Sea and costly pipelines have to be constructed.
"It's rational for Japan to obtain joint development rights first and sell them to China later," the source said.

The government sources said the latest proposal, put forward by Li, came without any explanation of the details of the project as demanded by Japan. Tokyo has also asked Beijing to provide development data on mineral veins in the area in question.
"Japan can develop oil by itself if there is no need to build a pipeline for it," one source said, showing displeasure with China's refusal to accept Japanese requests.

Source: Kyodo News
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