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China, Japan discuss disputed oil reserves

China and Japan were holding informal talks about how to develop oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the East China Sea.

world Updated: Jan 09, 2006 09:41 IST

China and Japan were holding informal talks on Monday about how to develop oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the East China Sea, one of several sources of tension between the Asian neighbours.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said last week that China and Japan, the world's second-and third-largest consumers of crude oil, had agreed in principle to jointly develop the area but Tokyo says they are still far apart on the details.

Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, would hold half-day discussions with his Chinese counterpart Cui Tiankai in Beijing on Monday, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy said.

"There is this idea to jointly develop resources. We do not categorically exclude the possibility of this joint study but we are not so sure what it really means," the spokesman said.

The negotiations take place amid a range of disputes clouding relations between the two sides, most springing from Japan's invasion and occupation of much of China from 1931 to 1945.

China objects to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where major war criminals are honoured along with millions of war dead. Beijing has also denounced a school history textbook it says whitewashes Japan's wartime atrocities.

The two sides have not agreed on how much to invest or how to split profits of resources extracted from the areas of the East China Sea near the islands known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyus.

China has criticised Japan for starting to award exploration rights to private companies, and Japan objects to China's starting work in the area, fearing it could tap into resources beyond what Tokyo recognises as a midway line in the waters.

Japan has also long demanded China provide data on its gas development projects in the area.

"They might start actual development of resources and we have concern that their work will absorb our Japanese resources, so we asked them to share their information" the spokesman said.