China proposes joint gas development project

Kyodo

Bidding to defuse a row over a new natural gas rig near Japan’s exclusive economic zone, China proposed Monday that the two countries jointly develop an offshore gas field, officials said.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi received the proposal from her Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, before a regional ministerial conference starts Tuesday to address Asia-related issues.

Kawaguchi had requested an explanation about the Chinese consortium’s drilling project in the East China Sea, the officials said. Tokyo has not received an adequate response, despite repeated requests to Beijing for information, they said.

Kawaguchi expressed concern to Li that the project could infringe on Japan’s rights because it could draw gas from the Japanese side of the line that divides the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Li said Japan and China should put their differences aside and think about engaging in a joint development project in the area, they said.

But Kawaguchi demanded that Beijing first provide details about the project, saying that without the information no progress can be made on the matter.

Li suggested that the two sides continue contact with each other, the officials said.

The Chinese consortium is constructing a new drilling facility near the intermediate line.

Although the drilling is being built in Chinese waters west of the line, Japan is concerned that resources in Japanese territory to the east could be taken out via underground pipes.