Japan to Ask China to Stop Drilling Gas in East China Sea

TOKYO, Sep 06, 2005 (Dow Jones Commodities News Select via Comtex)

Japan plans to propose talks with China later this month to ask Beijing to stop drilling gas along a disputed maritime border in the East China Sea, an official and news report said.

Tokyo and Beijing have been feuding over claims to undersea gas deposits in the East China Sea and the delineation of their exclusive economic zones in the area.

Japanese government officials agreed Monday to propose that China hold talks in Tokyo by the end of this month to discuss undersea resources in the area, said Yu Kameoka, spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Public broadcaster NHK said Japan plans to ask China to stop drilling gas and provide details of its continuing projects in the waters.

"Development of marine resources is extremely important to protect Japan's rights," NHK quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda as telling officials. "We have to deal with the issue for our national benefit."

In August, Japan's Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Japanese officials detected what they thought were signs that China had started drilling in the area and lodged a complaint.

Japan in July granted drilling rights to a Japanese company.

Tokyo and Beijing have been also clashing over Japanese history textbooks and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a shrine that honors executed war criminals. Their diplomatic row has soured relations between the two in recent months.

The gas dispute stems from a disagreement over how much sea resources the two sides can claim in the East China Sea, which divides China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

China has already built a drilling platform west of the line that Japan regards as the two sides' sea boundary. Tokyo has repeatedly demanded that Beijing stop exploration over worries that reserves on the Japanese side might be sucked dry.

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