Japan opts to search EEZ for natural gas

Japan will start exploring for natural gas resources in its exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea next month, industry minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Tuesday, in what appears to be a plan to counter China’s oil exploration near the area.

“With the approval of local people concerned, including fishermen, we want to launch the survey by sending in ships early next month,” Nakagawa said at a news conference.

He also indicated the government will carry out the initial exploration with an eye to conducting test drilling.

Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, last Wednesday flew in a Japan Coast Guard plane over China’s natural gas complex, now being built by a consortium near the intermediate line that divides the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Earlier this month, the government lodged a complaint with Beijing that the gas project could violate the boundaries of Japan’s EEZ, after learning it had begun constructing the drilling facility.

Japan argues that it has a right to claim its share if resources are found straddling the intermediate line.

Up to 200 billion cu. meters of natural gas reserves are estimated to exist in several oil fields in the area.