Japan plans to lodge a protest with Beijing after China's largest offshore oil development company said it had entered full production at a disputed undersea oil field in the East China Sea, a major newspaper reported yesterday.
Japanese officials are currently verifying the report, and if confirmed, the government will demand China immediately halt the drilling, the Nihon Keizai business newspaper reported. If rejected, Japan will consider retaliation, including launching its own drilling at a site near the median line between the two countries, the newspaper said.
China National Offshore Oil Corp, or CNOCC, quoted the deputy chief of China's State Development and Reform Commission, Zhang Guobao (張國寶), as saying the first stage of the Chunxiao drilling project "has already entered a full-fledged phase of production and development."
Zhang made the comment during a visit to the Chunxiao exploration site late last month, the company said.
Japanese officials are also planning to request a new round of bilateral gas talks as soon as possible at which they will repeat a proposal for joint exploration, Nihon Keizai said.
Tokyo wants to resolve the dispute through diplomatic efforts, but is also readying the retaliatory step in case China refuses to halt the Chunxiao drilling, the newspaper said.
Japanese government officials were not immediately available for comment yesterday.
The dispute over the gas deposits came to the fore last year after Chinese crews began drilling at Chunxiao. Though the drill site is not in a disputed area, the field straddles the contested demarcation line and Japan worries that oil reserves in the area might be sucked dry.
China has rejected Japan's proposal to jointly develop the fields. The two countries failed to make any progress in their latest talks in Beijing last month.