• Kyodo

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Japan will not accept China’s unilateral tapping of gas fields in the East China Sea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday, after media reported that Chinese state-run oil companies plan to drill into seven new gas fields in the sea at the heart of heightened tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.

“We will never accept development of gas fields in a unilateral manner,” Suga said, adding the government is still trying to confirm if the report is true.

Tokyo and Beijing have been at odds over the status of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Tensions have heightened since the Japanese government purchased three of the five islets from a private Japanese owner last year, effectively nationalizing the chain. Chinese surveillance ships repeatedly intrude near the uninhabited islets.

Also, both nations have yet to agree on where their boundaries in the East China Sea lie.

Reuters has reported that CNOOC Ltd., a state-run Chinese oil and gas firm, is expected to submit a plan for state approval to tap the gas fields, citing industry officials.

Two of the seven gas fields will likely be tapped near the disputed median line, the report said.

“We will make a strong protest,” if the gas fields will be built where the two countries’ economic waters overlap, Suga said.

Earlier in the month, Tokyo lodged a protest with Beijing over its exploitation of a possible natural gas field that may stretch into the seabed under contested waters in the East China Sea.