Japan and China begin gas drilling talks for East China Sea area

Sep 30, 2005 02:00 AM

Japan urged China to stop developing gas fields in a disputed part of the East China Sea and called for joint Tokyo-Beijing exploitation of natural resources in the area at the opening of two-day talks on the conflict. The two countries have been feuding over claims to undersea gas deposits in the area and the delineation of their exclusive economic zones there. The clash is part of the overall troubled relationship between Japan and China.
"We will ask China to provide necessary information. We will ask them to stop gas development on their own, and stop drilling if they are going ahead with drilling, without giving us any information," Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said.

Machimura said that Japan is also ready to discuss jointly developing reserves with China.
"We agree on the principle to make (the East China Sea) not into the ocean of conflict, but into the ocean of cooperation, so we will discuss how we could jointly develop reserves," he said.

The Japanese delegation was led by Kenichiro Sasae, director of the Asia and Oceania Bureau at Japan's Foreign Ministry. China's chief negotiator was Cui Tiankai, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department. The negotiators will not release details of the discussions until they end. It was the third round of talks the two sides have had on the dispute in the past year.
Later it was reported that the Chinese delegation reiterated its stance that the drilling takes place within its territory and should not be a source of concern.

Earlier, Japan lodged a protest against China's drilling for gas after Tokyo said it had confirmed that China was extracting natural gas from the Tianwaitian oil field in the East China Sea between eastern China and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa. China said, however, that it was within its rights to continue new gas drilling activity in the area.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Japan and China have signed, coastal countries can claim an economic zone extending 230 miles from their shores. The disputed site lies within both countries' claims, and the United Nations has until May 2009 to rule on the matter.

China also bases its claim on a separate international treaty that lets coastal countries extend their borders to the edges of their undersea continental shelves. In July, Beijing formally protested Tokyo's decision to give private oil company Teikoku Oil Co. drilling rights in the disputed area, calling it a severe provocation. Teikoku and several other Japanese oil companies had first applied for drilling rights in the late 1960s, following a UN report about possible rich undersea deposits.
But China was the first to launch an exploration and started building an undersea pipeline last year, Japan says. Tokyo has since demanded that Beijing stop exploration over worries that reserves on the Japanese side might be sucked dry.

Source: AP
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