National

China brushes off Japan's protest over maritime gas exploration

Kyodo

China is brushing off a diplomatic protest by Japan over gas exploration in the East China Sea.

“They are totally within the scope of China’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing Thursday, referring to the ongoing exploration activities in waters where the two nations have not agreed on an official boundary between their exclusive economic zones.

The Chinese reaction came a day after the Japanese government disclosed that it had filed the complaint, saying it was made after flares were witnessed this month at two of the 16 exploration platforms set up by China in the East China Sea near Japan’s proposed median line separating the EEZs.

Japan has repeatedly called on China to halt its resource development program near the line, given that their negotiations over a 2008 bilateral accord on joint gas development in the area have been on hiatus since renewed tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.

“It is extremely regrettable that China is proceeding with unilateral development in the area while the boundary between Japan and China in the East China Sea is not yet fixed, despite (our) repeated protests,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Wednesday.

The 16 structures are on the Chinese side of the median line that Japan has proposed.

Nevertheless, Japan is concerned that China may siphon off resources from beneath the Japanese side of the line and regards the exploration activities as running counter to the joint accord.

China does not recognize the line and claims its EEZ stretches further to the edge of the continental shelf, closer to Okinawa Prefecture.

The exploration activities have not stopped, although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed early last month that Tokyo and Beijing will work toward the resumption of the long-stalled negotiations.