Cabinet pushes for info on new Chinese gas rig

Cabinet ministers expressed concern Friday over the construction of a Chinese consortium’s natural gas rig in the East China Sea near Japan’s exclusive economic zone and stressed the need to have China provide more information about the project.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters she plans to take up the issue in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing next week in China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters, “The Japanese government has yet to confirm 100 percent” of the details of the drilling project, including its precise location.

At issue is the Chinese consortium’s construction of a new drilling facility near the intermediate line dividing the two countries’ exclusive economic zones. China already has a natural gas drilling project near the new construction site.

Hosoda reiterated Japan’s concern about the project, saying China could “take out resources” in Japan’s territory east of the intermediate line even though the drilling facility is being built in its territory to the west.

Hosoda made the comments in reference to a report confirming that construction of a second rig had begun in waters 9 km from the dividing line, despite government protests to China earlier this month over the new rig.

If China finds a vein of resources straddling the borderline, Japan has a right to claim a share, according to international law.

Kawaguchi said she will urge Li to give the exact location of the natural gas drilling project at their meeting next week.

“I must tell Foreign Minister Li about this issue,” Kawaguchi said in separate news conference.

Kawaguchi and Li, as well as South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon, plan to hold a three-way meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue forum, a two-day event opening in Qingdao, China on Monday.