China, Japan oil talks to go on

Beijing, January 9:

China and Japan agreed today to hold another round of talks on exploring for oil and gas in a disputed area of the East China Sea, a Japanese diplomat said after informal negotiations in Beijing.

“They agreed to hold the next round as early as possible,” the diplomat, who requested anonymity said, adding the two sides would meet in late January or February. “The Chinese are still studying the proposal from Japan from last time and will show their reaction in the next round.” The Asian economic giants, two of the world’s biggest energy importers, have been sparring for years over potentially lucrative gasfields in an area where their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones overlap.

The latest round of talks on the issue took place last October in Tokyo. In the informal talks in Beijing today, Japanese chief delegate Kenichiro Sasae and Natural Resources and Energy Agency director general Nobuyori Kodaira met Cui Tiankai, head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Asian affairs department.

The Japanese diplomat said China had indicated in the informal talks that it would not agree to previous Japanese proposals. “The Chinese side has found some problematic points in the Japanese proposal,” the diplomat said.

The Japanese side had earlier proposed joint gas and oil development in the area straddling both sides of what Tokyo says is the maritime boundary. But China does not recognise the boundary, which divides the overlap in half, and tensions rose last year after Japan said it had spotted flames indicating China had started production. China began test-drilling in 2003.

In its earlier proposals, Ja-pan had also said China must stop its exploration before an agreement could be reached. Japan further demanded that China disclose the details and progress of its gas exploration so far. Today Sasae and Cui also touched on the historical rivals’ worsening relations.