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Koizumi calls for dialogue on oil dispute
By Hu Xiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-15 06:07

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said yesterday that Japan and China should resolve their oil and gas drilling dispute in the East China Sea through dialogue.

The Japanese leader made the remarks a day after China's Foreign Ministry condemned the Japanese Government, saying it had committed a serious provocation against China by granting Japanese firms rights to drill for gas and oil in the disputed territory in East China Sea.

"Chinese and Japanese positions differ on the matter, but we need to continue talks from a larger point of view, without inflaming conflicts, and to turn the sea of conflict into a sea of co-ordination," Kyodo News quoted Koizumi as saying.

The Japanese Government on Wednesday initiated procedures to grant Japanese firms the right to conduct test drilling for potential gas and oil fields to the east of the so-called "demarcation line" in the East China Sea.

Following Japan's announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the move was a provocation against China's rights and norms in international relations.

China had already lodged protests on the issue with the Japanese side and Qin said the nation would "retain the right to react further."

He said China has always insisted the two sides should resolve the issue through diplomatic negotiations.

"We strongly ask the Japanese side to take relevant measures. The consequences depend on Japan," he said at yesterday's news media briefing, after being asked to elaborate what further reaction China would likely take.

He said China wants to solve the question through consultations and proposed putting aside disputes and engaging in joint exploitation efforts in the ocean area.

"We hope to get a positive response from the Japanese side."

Japan has unilaterally demarcated a controversial exclusive economic zone along the median line. It holds that the line is determined by the two countries' coastlines.

China holds that the line is determined by the continental shelf on China's side, over which China claims exclusive rights.

Both China and Japan have a right to claim 200 sea miles of water, in accordance with international law.

However, the width of the East China Sea is less than 400 sea miles and the claims of the two sides overlap, which has led to continuing disputes.

According to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura plans to visit China this weekend but Qin yesterday did not give any details about Machimura's agenda, saying the two sides are still discussing the visit.

(China Daily 04/15/2005 page1)

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