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. Japan says 'cannot accept' Chinese gas development

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 5, 2009
Japan said Monday it "cannot accept" China's development of a gas field near a disputed part of the East China Sea after Beijing insisted it was acting within its own waters.

Asia's two largest economies struck a deal in June last year to end a lingering spat over Chinese undersea gas fields which, Japan said, may extend into its exclusive economic zone.

But Japan has complained about China's development of the nearby Tianwaitian gas field, which Tokyo contends should be untouched until talks settle its status.

"The area should be under negotiations. The Japanese government expresses its regret that China is unilaterally developing the field," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

"Japan cannot accept China's unilateral development," said Kawamura, the government's spokesman.

Under last year's deal, Japan agreed to invest in one field in the area, and jointly develop another.

The June agreement stipulated that the two nations would continue talks over other gas fields. But China continues to insist that it has the right to develop them.

The Tianwaitian field was not specifically mentioned in the June agreement but Japan contends it is part of further negotiations.

"Our understanding is that the status of the ones outside of the political agreement is blank. Therefore the status quo is the way it should be," Kawamura said.

"We are gathering information at this point. We must take appropriate actions if new steps are made," he added.

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone confirmed press reports that Japan has made an official protest to China.

"This is extremely regrettable. We have issued protests to the Chinese side," Nakasone said.

China however said Sunday the development was in "China's undisputed territorial waters."

"The gas field development activities of the Chinese side are being carried out within China's inherent sovereign rights," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on his ministry's website.

Japan and China are two of the world's biggest energy importers. They have been working since 2006 to repair relations, which have long been tense due in part to the legacy of Japanese imperialism.

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European countries were forced in 2008 to recognize the risk of a non-diverse supply of oil and gas, as geopolitical strife shut down or otherwise threatened oil and gas pipelines. Further east, tensions such as the India-Pakistan row, exacerbated by the Mumbai terrorist attacks, could derail planned pipeline projects.

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