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China, Japan hold gas talks, no agreement seen

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Mar 6: China and Japan open a fourth round of talks today about how to develop oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the East China Sea, but few see the issue being resolved quickly partly due to poor bilateral ties.

Japan's goal was to gauge the Chinese reaction to a proposal for joint development of the resources made at the third round of negotiations in January, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Beijing said.

Past talks have been hampered by strained ties between the two over a range of disputes, most stemming from Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China from 1931 to 1945.

''We have already presented our position, and are expecting to hear what the Chinese side thinks about this,'' Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese delegation and the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, was quoted as saying late yesterday by Japan's Kyodo news agency.

The two sides have agreed in principle to jointly develop the gas and oil reserves near the islands known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyus, and basically see eye-to-eye on the position of the border between their exclusive economic zones.

But Tokyo fears that China, while operating in its own area, could tap oil or gas fields that extend under the Japanese zone.

In past talks, Japan asked China to provide information on the scope of its resource discoveries in the area and to halt development until a solid agreement was reached, the embassy spokesman said.

Japan-China relations have sunk to their lowest point in decades over a range of disputes, particularly Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine that China sees as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Sasae told reporters yesterday that other issues could come up in meetings with Chinese officials before the gas talks opened today and did not deny the stalled six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear programme might be discussed.

February talks in Beijing between Japan and North Korea about normalising relations ended with the two sides far apart over the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens and yielded no agreement on when Pyongyang might return to the six-party discussions.

North Korea has repeatedly said it cannot return to the nuclear talks, which group the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the United States and host China, unless the United States drops sanctions imposed on firms suspected of involvement in counterfeiting and drug trafficking by the North.


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