Okada warns China on gas-drilling pact

Kyodo News

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told his Chinese counterpart Sunday that Japan will “take action” if Beijing violates a 2008 agreement over disputed gas exploration projects.

In talks with Yang Jiechi, Okada also urged Beijing to start discussing the details of jointly developing the projects in the East China Sea, according to a Japanese diplomat who declined to be named.

“If China violates the agreement, Japan will have to take certain action,” Okada said in talks on the sidelines of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation in Tokyo.

Yang expressed strong opposition after Okada suggested that Japan may start development on its own in the area, according to a ministry source.

Japan and China, Asia’s two top energy consumers, said in 2008 they would share the potentially lucrative gas resources in the East China Sea, an agreement that took years of negotiations to reach.

But China has reportedly built a drilling platform in the area and appears ready to start extracting gas.

In response, Yang was quoted as telling Okada: “China will firmly stand by the 2008 agreement. We wish to continue unofficial, working-level exchanges to further enhance mutual understanding.”

China started drilling in the Chunxiao gas field, known as Shirakaba in Japan, in 2003, inflaming tensions with Japan, which voiced worries that Beijing would be siphoning off gas from a large deposit that straddles what Japan considers to be its own territory.

The 2008 agreement stipulated that talks would continue over other gas fields, but China has since insisted it has the right to develop them.

Turning to North Korea, Okada asked China to work toward bringing Pyongyang back to the six-party denuclearization talks “unconditionally.” Yang was quoted as telling him China will try to get the multilateral negotiations resumed soon.

On Jan. 11, North Korea proposed talks with countries involved in the 1950-1953 Korean War to replace the armistice that ended the conflict with a peace treaty, while saying that the peace talks could be held within the six-party framework if sanctions against Pyongyang were lifted.

The six-party negotiations involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Tongue-tied nurses

Kyodo News

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told his Indonesian and Filipino counterparts in Tokyo Sunday that he would like to address the hardships their nurses are facing in passing the national language exams, the Foreign Ministry said.

Japan, a rapidly aging society, began accepting foreign nurses and caregivers from 2008 under bilateral economic partnership agreements aimed at easing labor shortages in medical and nursing services.

The caregivers are required to return to their countries if they fail to pass the exam within four years of their arrival. Nurses must do the same in three years.

But because the exams use Chinese characters, the foreign nurses are believed to be struggling.

Some are demanding that “furigana” superscripts be provided for the kanji so they can recognize the words the characters represent.