Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday his administration will stand firm against China over its unilateral exploration for natural gas in contested waters in the East China Sea.
Abe was commenting on proposals issued by a Liberal Democratic Party panel calling on the government to take a hard line.
“The handling of the Chinese side comes in violation of their commitment and it stands to reason” that Beijing should remove its drilling facility in the area, Abe said. “We as the government will firmly address the matter.”
China is building a new facility in the area, while bilateral talks on joint development have stalled.
The LDP panel agreed on the proposals earlier in the day.
They call on the government to urge China to immediately remove construction material for the facility, which is located on the Chinese side of the Japan-claimed border of the countries’ exclusive economic zones. Undersea gas fields in the area could potentially extend to the Japanese side.
Tokyo lodged a protest with China after spotting the construction site in early July, but Beijing rejected the protest. Adding to the friction, some Chinese state-run companies are reportedly preparing to apply for the development of seven additional fields in the area.
“We will never accept (Chinese projects) if they are launched in the waters where Japanese and Chinese claims overlap,” the LDP said in the proposals.
Abe’s party also urged the government to ask Beijing not to authorize any development projects in such contested waters, and to enter talks with China as soon as possible on how to develop fields not covered by a 2008 bilateral agreement.
Under the agreement, the countries established a joint development area and China approved future investment by Japanese companies in Chinese projects to develop one of the fields in the zone, although the details of the accord, such as investment terms, have yet to be worked out.
The negotiations on joint development were stalled even before the territorial row over the Senkaku Islands intensified last September.