OYAMA, Shizuoka Pref. — Japan and China must find ways to cooperate over energy resources, business leaders said Friday during an annual Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) forum.

“As two fellow importers of energy resources, we should be able to cooperate” with China, said Fumiaki Watari, president of gasoline and oil producer Nippon Oil Corp. “So why can’t we?”

Japan can provide excess facilities, oil reserves and technology in exchange for business opportunities and market access, he said.

China and Japan continue to clash over rights to an estimated 200 billion cu. meters of natural gas reserves in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

“It’s pointless to squabble, like it’s a winner-takes-all situation,” Watari told The Japan Times after the discussion. Bickering over energy sources will only push up prices, he added.

Japan and China already pay what is dubbed an “Asian premium” on crude oil imports.

During the two-day, no-tie forum for the nation’s most established corporate executives, participants discussed issues ranging from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s contentious visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine to the increasingly common use of English business terms like “cash flow” instead of the original Japanese.

But participants became heated when talks turned to China.

Business has suffered due to the lack of a comprehensive state strategy toward China and other neighboring economies, as well as the failure of Chinese and Japanese politicians to build mutual trust, executives said.

“Everyone talks about the benefits of better regional cooperation,” said Matabe Maeda, chairman of the major construction company Maeda Corp. “But we are hampered by political resistance when we actually try to cooperate in concrete areas,” such as energy, immigration and trade.

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