Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa on Wednesday confirmed that a complex tied to a natural gas project being carried out by a Chinese consortium has been built near Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea, government sources said.

Nakagawa, who examined the area in question from a Japan Coast Guard airplane, said the complex had been newly built for the rig project near the intermediate line dividing the two countries’ EEZs.

Equipment used to separate gas from oil, a heliport and a housing facility were also seen during the hourlong aerial inspection of the area, where there are three known offshore gas fields, the sources said.

The complex is located near a small drilling facility, whose existence had been reported but not confirmed, they said.

Earlier this month, Tokyo complained to Beijing that the gas project could violate Japan’s EEZ, after learning that the construction of a drilling facility had started.

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

According to the sources, Nakagawa said after returning to Tokyo that the government plans to examine whether a vein of resources in the area extends into Japan’s EEZ.

Nakagawa is the first Japanese Cabinet minister to visit the area, where up to 200 billion cu. meters of natural gas reserves are estimated to exist in several oil fields.

China has proposed that the two countries consider jointly developing an offshore gas field. Nakagawa rejected the proposal on Tuesday, saying: “What is important at the moment is to know on which side of the intermediate line resources exist. There is no plan to consider such a project.”

Japan has demanded, to no avail, that China provide detailed information on the gas project and development data on mineral veins in the area in question.

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