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China opposes Japan's sea gas decision
By Guo Nei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-01 01:27

China expressed grave concern over Japan's unilateral decision to explore a disputed area in the East China Sea Wednesday.

Zhang Qiyue, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. [file]
"China is deeply concerned about Japan's decision on this issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

It is reported that Japan will start exploring an area under the East China Sea for natural gas near where China has been developing the resource.

Shoichi Nakagawa, Japan's Minister for Economics, Trade and Industry, says Tokyo wants to start researching the sub-seafloor early next month in its exclusive economic zone, which is northwest of Okinawa, Japan's southern most prefecture.

"We will send ships early next month to conduct research on the Japanese side of the area divided by the intermediate line," Nakagawa said at a news conference.

Another ministry official said Japan would spend 3 billion yen (US$27.7 million) on the project, due to be completed by October.

The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal countries to regulate and catch seabed resources in their economic zones. The zones extend 370 kilometres from their shores.

But Beijing and Tokyo, both of which signed the convention in 1996, disagree over the zones as they partly overlap.

China maintains that the border is where the continental shelf ends, as is the international custom. But Japan contends that both zones meet halfway between the shores.

The UN says it will decide on global offshore territorial claims by May 2009.

"China has always held that the two countries should solve their border disputes in the East China Sea through negotiations," Zhang said.

China has suggested that the two countries should develop the area together but Tokyo has refused, saying it first wants Beijing to provide information from studies it has already completed.

"We hope Japan can proceed from the general situation of bilateral ties and stability in the East China Sea area, taking a prudent approach and dismissing any actions that could harm China's interests and complicate the situation," Zhang said.

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