Japan will ask China to halt natural gas exploration projects if they encroach on Japan’s economic waters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Monday.

“If China has designated several areas for gas development in waters outside its own, we will seek termination of the projects through diplomatic channels,” he told a news conference.

Shoichi Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, claimed Sunday that he has information that China is believed to have granted Chinese companies the rights to conduct natural gas exploration in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea.

Hosoda said exploring for energy sources in the area “is a pressing issue, given the current situation of oil,” and that the two countries should first fix a line dividing their economic zones through negotiations.

The two countries are expected to hold a working-level meeting on the issue by the end of the month.

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