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China says wants quick fix to East China Sea dispute with Japan

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 27, 2007
China said Thursday it wanted a quick end to a territorial dispute with Japan over lucrative gas fields, but stopped short of saying a deal would emerge during Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's visit.

"We are devoted to the proper settlement of the East China Sea issue," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said hours before Fukuda's arrival in Beijing.

"We hope that Japan can meet with us halfway and make joint efforts with China. We hope that both sides can expedite our negotiations on the East China Sea so that common development can take place at an early date."

However the spokesman refused to directly comment on remarks by Fukuda that the drawn-out dispute could be settled during his four-day visit to China, his first official visit to China since he took office in September.

"We could come to an agreement if talks go well," Fukuda told journalists before his departure. "We should solve this as swiftly as possible."

Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday that the two countries held secret talks on the gas dispute ahead of Fukuda's visit.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, a former ambassador to Tokyo, went to Japan last week to propose joint development of the area that is rich in gas supplies, the newspaper said.

Qin confirmed Wang's visit, saying it was part of a consensus reached in April this year between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe to intensify efforts to resolve the issue.

Eleven rounds of negotiations have yielded little, with China rejecting the maritime border, which Japan considers a starting point for discussions.

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