Japan, China hold new talks on energy dispute
Japan and China opened talks on a heated row over gas and oil fields in the East China Sea.india Updated: May 18, 2006 09:22 IST
Japan and China opened fresh talks on Thursday on a heated row over gas and oil fields in the East China Sea, with Tokyo saying it hopes to find at least limited common ground.
The potentially lucrative energy reserves are among a number of disputes that have badly harmed relations between the Asian powers, which are also divided over wartime history.
A Chinese consortium has been developing gas fields in the area, raising Japanese concerns that it could siphon off its resources.
Both sides have proposed joint gas and oil development, but they differ on where exactly their zones lie.
China does not recognise the boundary claimed by Japan, which splits the area in half, and says its rights extend nearly as far east as Japan's southern islands of Okinawa.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso expressed optimism that the two countries could reach an understanding over at least one of the two areas under discussion for development.
"We could find common ground over the north side," Aso said on Tuesday.
The one-day meeting in Tokyo is the fifth round of talks on the dispute since October 2004. The last session in Beijing in March yielded little progress, as Japan was unimpressed with a fresh Chinese proposal to share the resources.
After the last round of talks, China said it would "never accept" a plan by Japan to jointly develop energy reserves based on what Tokyo says is the maritime boundary.
Tensions rose last year after Japan said it had spotted flames indicating China had started production. China began test-drilling in 2003.
The Japanese side to the talks is represented by Kenichiro Sasae, the head of the foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Nobuyori Kodaira, leader of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
The Chinese delegation is headed by Hu Zhengyue, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry's Asian Affairs Department.
Ties between the two nations have already been strained by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to a shrine which commemorates war dead including war criminals.
China, which was invaded by Japan in the 1930s, suspended top-level bilateral meetings with Japan in October after Koizumi's last visit to Yasukuni shrine.
Japan has bee. pushing for a meeting between the two nations' foreign ministers when they attend the Asian Cooperation Dialogue forum in Qatar next week.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, whose country has also been outraged by the war shrine visits, said on Wednesday that he was ready to meet with his Japanese counterpart Aso in Qatar.