Japan and China agree to speed up gas fields talks
Tokyo (AFP) July 27, 2010
Japan and China agreed on Tuesday to seek an early conclusion to talks over plans to jointly exploit oil and gas fields in a disputed area of the East China Sea, officials said.
Senior government officials from the two countries met at the Japanese foreign ministry in Tokyo in the first talks on the matter since their leaders pledged to tackle the issue at a summit in May.
"The two sides agreed to aim at an early conclusion of this negotiation," the ministry said in a statement. "The two sides agreed to hold a second round of talks in Beijing this autumn."
Earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada welcomed the start of the closed-door meetings but told a news conference: "The point is the content. We would like to have fruitful discussions."
Okada refused to comment on the details of the talks, only saying: "I hope negotiations will go smoothly."
Two years ago, the Asian economic giants agreed to drill jointly for oil and gas in the north of the East China Sea, near a gas field called Longjing by China and Asunaro by Japan.
Japanese companies are also to take part in exploiting the Shirakaba field, known as Chunxiao in Chinese.
Since the June 2008 agreement, the talks have stalled and Japan has charged that China had started unilateral operations on the Chinese side of the median line, with ships reportedly observed taking equipment to the area.
A breakthrough was achieved in May during a meeting between China's Premier Wen Jiabao and his then-counterpart Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned in early June and was replaced by Naoto Kan.
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