Japan could accept China’s offer to jointly conduct oil and gas exploration in the East China Sea, but only if Beijing provides details of its ongoing gas projects in the disputed waters and halts its operations there, the industry minister said Friday.

“We cannot accept such an offer under the current circumstances, but we will not totally exclude the possibility when our conditions are met,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Nakagawa told a news conference.

Cui Tiankai, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asian affairs department, told reporters Thursday it was unfortunate that Japan has been reluctant to participate in China’s joint development plan.

Cui said China does not plan to provide the project information demanded by Japan.

Tokyo is “unilaterally demanding data and making it a premise for the resumption of negotiations” on the issue, he said.

Nakagawa said Tokyo is ready to offer its area data to China for joint exploration if Beijing presents its data and stops exploration, actions Japan has demanded repeatedly.

“If we stand on an equal footing and jointly explore natural resources, the area will become a sea of friendship,”‘ Nakagawa said.

Nakagawa said last week that Japan will begin preparations for test-drilling in the area if China fails to provide a “sincere” response to its demands in about a week.

Tokyo then informed Beijing on Monday that it could allow Japanese firms to test drill in the disputed waters if China does not comply with its demands.

The moves follow the release of a government geophysical survey that says the structures in two of China’s natural gas fields under the disputed waters extend into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

But the report stops short of confirming the existence of oil and gas in the area sought by Japan.

A Chinese consortium has natural gas projects in an area close to what Japan claims is the median line separating the two countries’ EEZs in the East China Sea.

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