Japan and China may be able to resolve their dispute over gas exploration rights in the East China Sea even before the expected visit to Japan by Chinese President Hu Jintao in April, the Chinese ambassador to Japan said in an interview Friday.

“I’m quite confident that they will work out something acceptable to both sides. Of course this is a difficult and sensitive issue . . . but we’ll speed up our work and try to resolve the issue at the earliest possible date,” Ambassador Cui Tiankai said. The dispute stems from the differences over where each nation’s sea boundaries lie, and the two sides have yet to reach an accord to decide the location for the joint development of the gas field. But Japan and China are hoping to reach agreement by the time of Hu’s visit to maintain friendly ties that have been enhanced by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s visit to China last month.

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