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Japan, China to meet over disputed sea
Updated: 2005-05-15 10:34

Japan and China are set to hold talks later this month on a dispute over the exploration of gas fields in the East China Sea, according to Kyodo news agency.

The report quoted Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura as saying that officials from the two countries would meet in Beijing on May 30 and 31.

But Japanese foreign ministry officials said they could not immediately confirm the report.

Both Japan and China claim the gas deposits, which they hope to use to power their huge economies.

Japan has protested China's exploration of the gas fields, alleging the activities extend into Tokyo's exclusive economic zone. But Beijing has refused to halt them, saying its explorations are within its zone.

The East China Sea divides China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

Besides the dispute over the gas fields, Sino-Japanese relations have soured since anti-Japanese protests erupted last month in Beijing and several other Chinese cities over Tokyo's wartime past and its push for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

Machimura and his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, met last week on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe meeting in Kyoto and agreed to resume talks on the gas dispute and other issues.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing meets with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi at Beijing Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on May 14 in the wake of a talk between Chinese vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and Yachi, discussing a Japan request for repairing damaged Japan assets during last month's mass protest against Koizumi Government.

"I cannot comment about the contents of the meeting, but the issue (of repairing embassy and consulates) has yet to be solved," Yachi said after the talks.

Earlier reports suggested the talks would likely deal with a Chinese offer to pay "consolation money" for damage caused by anti-Japanese protests in April.

The dispute over Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japanese war dead, including convicted war criminals, could only be resolved by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Machimura said.

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