Japan and China pledge energy dialogue

Updated: 2006-12-18 09:35

Japan and China have agreed to hold annual ministerial-level talks on energy as they seek to repair relations strained by territorial disputes over oil and gas fields, a senior Japanese official said Sunday.

"Cooperation between Asia's two largest energy consumers will contribute to market stability," the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, Akira Amari, said in Beijing after talks with Ma Kai, the minister who oversees the National Development and Reform Commission.

The talks came a day after the two countries took part in an energy meeting in which Beijing announced that it was awarding a multibillion-dollar nuclear reactor contract to Westinghouse Electric, which is part of Toshiba Corp. The meeting included ministers from the United States, India, Japan and South Korea, countries that together consume nearly half the world's oil.

"Cooperation between the two countries is much preferable to competition that gives suppliers the upper hand and increases uncertainty," Amari said.

Seeking to take a leadership role on global energy issues, China on Saturday urged major oil consumers to forge a common energy policy to respond to resurgent producer power and sought to smooth over differences on how best to achieve energy security. "We want to send out an important, positive message, which is, the world's key energy- consuming countries plan to strengthen mutual cooperation," Ma said.

There will also be an effort to promote conservation of oil, improve energy efficiency, stress development of oil alternatives and reduce reliance on oil, he added in prepared remarks for the meeting.

The call to action echoed a concern over what have been seen as increasingly nationalistic policies by major oil and gas producing countries that some major consumers fear could stifle investment and limit supplies.

The Indian minister of petroleum and natural gas, Murli Deora, said after the meeting that this was the first time an energy conference had been organized to look at the interest of consumers. "Otherwise it is all OPEC and the oil producers' interests," he added.

The five consumer nations will focus on diversifying energy sources and increasing efficiency to reduce oil dependency, cooperating on strategic oil reserves and encouraging more investment in the industry to aid market stability, a ministerial statement said.

Japan and China agreed to start a program that will promote business exchanges between companies on energy conservation, putting companies in the two countries in contact with each other, Amari, the Japanese minister, said.

Tokyo and Beijing disagree over their sea border: China says its territory extends to the end of the continental shelf, while Japan regards the border as the halfway point between the countries' shores.

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