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A Chinese Embassy official was summoned Wednesday to the Foreign Ministry to be told that Tokyo regrets that a Chinese consortium is set to begin drilling in the Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea, where the two countries are disputing the boundary, a ministry spokesman said.

Kenichiro Sasae, head of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, summoned Cheng Yonghua, minister at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, and told him it would be “regrettable” if China unilaterally pushed ahead with the drilling, ministry spokesman Yoshinori Katori told a news conference.

During the meeting with Cheng, Sasae repeated Tokyo’s call for Beijing to suspend the project and disclose details about it as well as set a date for a new round of bilateral talks on the issue, Katori said.

The Foreign Ministry’s move follows an announcement the previous day in Hong Kong by Fu Chengyu, head of China National Offshore Oil Corp., that natural gas production in the field might begin this month.

Japan claims the Chunxiao field is linked to gas fields that will be tapped by the Japanese firm Teikoku Oil Co. and is concerned China could siphon off resources on the Japanese side of what Tokyo says is the line separating the two nations’ exclusive economic zones.

During the meeting with Sasae, Cheng said Beijing is of the understanding that its gas project is in an area where the two countries have no dispute, Katori said.

In Beijing, Hidehisa Horinouchi, minister at the Japanese Embassy, also made a request that the gas project be stopped to Kong Xuanyou, deputy director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s department of Asian affairs, an embassy official said.

The two remained split on the gas projects, with Kong claiming that CNOOC was acting within its capacity as a corporation. But the two agreed to try to resolve their differences through dialogue, according to the official.

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