Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Territorial disputes in the East China Sea: "We should just sit down and talk" Shoichi Nakagawa, Japanese Trade Minister

After our press conference this morning with METI
minister Nakagawa, related to the discussions Tokyo
Beijing held in China and my questions on the risk of
collision course between the two neighbors:


China has turned down a Japanese request to stop its
exploration of a gas field in the East China Sea, but
the two powers agreed to continue talks over the
dispute, Japanese officials said on Tuesday.

A Japanese delegate to the two-day talks that began in
Beijing on Monday said China had offered to jointly
develop the gas field in the disputed East China Sea

"We pointed out problematic points about it, and we told
them it was hard for us to accept it as is," Kenichiro
Sasae, the head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asia
and Oceania Bureau, said after the talks on Tuesday.
"But Japan and China agreed to continue to discuss what
we can do about it."

The disagreement over exploration of the seabed for oil
and gas has added to tensions between the two
energy-hungry nations, which also are seeing a
resurgence of controversy over Japan's actions in
invading and occupying parts of China between 1931 and

China has criticized Japan for moving precipitously and
starting to award exploration rights to private
companies. In response, Japan said Beijing's decision
to go ahead with construction in the region was

Tokyo has demanded that China stop energy exploration
and provide data on its gas projects in the area.

"First of all, we strongly demanded China halt
exploration, Japan's biggest concern, and provide data,"
said Nobuyori Kodaira, head of the Japanese Agency for
Natural Resources and Energy. "The Chinese side told us
that they were taking full note of Japan's concern, and
therefore we will continue to talk with China on this

China and Japan are the world's second- and
third-largest oil consumers. They have said they are
committed to the natural gas talks, but they traded
accusations last week ahead of the two-day meeting in

Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi of China last week canceled
a meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan
and ended a visit to Japan a day early after Koizumi
refused to stop visiting a controversial war shrine.

The East China Sea dispute is just one of several
irritants in relations between the Asian heavyweights.

China was angered this year when Washington and Tokyo
declared that Taiwan, which China considers to be a
breakaway province, was a mutual security concern.

Thousands of people demonstrated across China last month
over what many see as Japan's refusal to acknowledge
wartime atrocities and over its bid for a permanent seat
on the United Nations Security Council.

Strains grew when Koizumi defended his visits to the
Yasukuni shrine, which China sees as a symbol of Japan's
militarism, while Wu Yi was visiting - prompting her to
cancel the meeting with Koizumi and return home.

Despite the deterioration in relations, trade between
China and Japan has been growing strongly and was valued
at nearly $170 billion in 2004.

The Japanese trade minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, said the
two countries also should hold talks on other issues to
improve their relations.

"We should realize that the rest of the world is
watching how we deal with the problems between Japan and
China, the two economic powers and Asian neighbors,"
Nakagawa said in Tokyo.

"Our confrontations are unfortunate," he added. "We
should just sit down and talk, just like we are doing
right now over the gas exploration in the East China

end of quotes agencies.

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