Japan protests China’s plan to tap seabed gas near contested waters


Japan expressed opposition Wednesday to exploitation by China of a natural gas field that may stretch into the seabed under contested waters in the East China Sea, having received news Beijing is making moves to that end.

“We conveyed our serious concerns (to China) through diplomatic channels,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

In the latest development threatening to worsen bilateral relations that are already tense due to the dispute over the Senkaku islets in the sea, Japan has confirmed that a large Chinese crane ship is building a drilling platform at a point near the Japan-claimed border between their exclusive economic zones.

Although the point is in the Chinese EEZ, it is only 26 km from the border, raising the prospect that the undersea gas field may extend into the Japanese side. Tokyo has proposed joint development of the area, but bilateral talks on the matter have stalled and Japan has yet to start any attempt to tap the gas field from waters it claims.

“It is not acceptable if China unilaterally develops (gas fields) in the waters where Japanese and Chinese claims overlap,” Suga said, adding China has not responded to Tokyo’s protest.

The issue stems from the unresolved demarcation of the East China Sea where the countries’ economic waters overlap.

Tokyo is long aware of Chinese gas drilling at four other points near the so-called median line between their coastlines, which Japan regards as the two countries’ demarcation line under domestic law. China says its EEZ extends much farther from the mainland.

In a related development Wednesday, seven Chinese naval vessels passed an international strait off Kyushu, the Defense Ministry said.

The four destroyers, two guided missile frigates and a support ship were seen sailing north through the Tsushima Strait off Nagasaki Prefecture and between Japan and South Korea, early Wednesday, a ministry official said.

Passage through the Tsushima Strait, a high seas corridor, does not pose a problem under international law, even for warships.

Chinese naval vessels were last seen sailing through the strait in August 2011, according to the ministry.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, a fleet of seven naval vessels departed from Qingdao harbor in eastern China on Monday to take part in joint naval drills with Russia in the Sea of Japan, apparently coinciding with the seven ships seen passing through the Tsushima Strait.

  • Steven R. Simon

    Simon says the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force should purchase the USS New Jersey, the USS Missouri and the USS Iowa out of the US mothball fleet, refurbish them and put them out to sea as carrier/16″ gun platforms.

    • Bobserver

      Simply Simon says?
      And do exactly what with them? The Chinese are drilling for gas 26km within their waters away from the median line with Japan.

  • Bobserver

    What is Japan on about? The Chinese are drilling on their side of the median line. There is nothing to stop Japan drilling for gas 26km from the median line on their side.

    • Masa Chekov

      I suppose there are always concerns that given slant drilling techniques that the actual reservoir is not on the Chinese side but the Japanese side.

      But with a distance of 26km from the border that seems unlikely. I suppose this “protest” might just be a call for dialogue and joint development, but who knows.

  • Steven R. Simon

    Simon says that with 3 Harrier Jump-Jet equipped VTOL carriers backed up with 36 16″ guns Japan would gain naval supremacy in the East China Sea and nobody would try to play bumper-cars with an Iowa class vessel.

  • Ken5745

    If Japan did not nationalize the islands last year but instead shelf them for future generations to decide as agreed by PM Tanaka and PM Zhou Enlai in Sept 1972 there will be no problem today.

    In fact China is open to joint development and Japan should not hesitate to agree because 50% ownership of the under-sea gas and oil is far better than100% ownership of nothing.

    Its time the Japan side take a reality check and stop pretending there was no shelf agreement, which has been confirmed by the ex chief Cabinet Secretary Mr Hiromu Nonaka, who told reporters in Beijing that “Just after the normalization of relations, I was told clearly by then-Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka that a decision was made on the normalization by shelving the Senkaku issue. and as a living witness, I would like to make (it) clear.”.

    Peace and not war is a better option for Japan.