Japan will decide whether to give Japanese firms rights to conduct experimental drilling in disputed waters in the East China Sea regardless of a series of anti-Japanese protests in China, Vice Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hideji Sugiyama indicated Monday.

“When we should grant such rights is a matter to be decided independently by the government,” Sugiyama told a news conference, dismissing speculation that Tokyo might refrain from starting preparations for test-drilling in the wake of violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China over the weekend.

Japan told China on April 4 that it may allow Japanese companies to conduct test-drilling for natural gas and oil in waters claimed by both Japan and China if Beijing does not respond to Japan’s repeated requests for Beijing to provide detailed data on its ongoing natural gas projects and halt exploration in the East China Sea.

China has refused to comply.

A Chinese consortium has been conducting natural gas projects in an area close to what Japan claims is a “median line” separating the two countries’ exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea.

China has not accepted the median line.

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