Japan protests China's drilling for gas

AP , TOKYO

Thu, Sep 22, 2005 - Page 5

Japan has lodged a protest against China's drilling of gas in disputed waters in the East China Sea and called for a resumption of talks over the joint development of oil reserves in the region, an official said yesterday.

"Japan sJapan protests China's drilling for gas

aid it deeply regrets China's one-sided decision to start extracting natural gas from the region, and calls on China to stop its activities," a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing government policy.

Japan also called for an early resumption of talks to share drilling rights in areas that fall within the countries' UN-defined maritime economic zones, the official said.

Tuesday's protest came after Tokyo said it had confirmed that China was extracting natural gas from the Tianwaitian oil field in the East China Sea, which separates China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

Tokyo and Beijing have been feuding over claims to the undersea gas deposits, amid a broader diplomatic row that has soured bilateral relations in recent months.

In the past, Japan has proposed that Tokyo and Beijing decide on a line between their economic zones and jointly exploit resources in the area. But talks that began earlier this year have been suspended since May.

China said on Tuesday it was within its rights to continue with new gas drilling activity in the area, but was willing to negotiate with Japan over the territorial waters.

Talks between the two countries could resume as early as this month, media reports said. The Foreign Ministry official said the two sides had not yet decided on a date.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal countries can claim an economic zone extending 200 nautical miles (370km) from their shores. Both Japan and China signed the treaty, but the UN has until May 2009 to rule on the claims.

China also bases its claim on a separate international treaty that lets coastal countries extend their borders to the edge of the undersea continental shelf.