In June 2008, Japan and China agreed on gas development and production projects in the East China Sea by shelving differences over the demarcation of exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Although the agreement was supposed to contribute to building stable bilateral ties, friction has cropped up between the two countries.

It has surfaced that China has been unilaterally pushing development of a gas field that Japan calls “Kashi” and China calls “Tianwaitian.” China should stop these activities and start talks with Japan to flesh out the details for the agreement.

Under the June agreement, Japan and China were to explore a 2,700-square-kilometer area south of a gas field called “Asunaro” by Japan and “Longjing” by China. Japanese firms would invest in a Chinese-operated project in a gas field called “Shirakaba” by Japan and “Chunxiao” by China. The two countries also are to continue talks on what to do with the Kashi (Tianwaitian) gas field and another gas field called “Kusunoki” by Japan and “Duanqiao” by China.

It has been found that even after the deal was made, China continued developing the Kashi (Tianwaitian) gas field. Japan takes the position that China’s activities there run counter to the agreement. But China insists that the gas field in question lies in Chinese waters and that China has an inherent right to develop it.

After the agreement was reached, criticism surfaced in China that the Chinese government had made too many concessions to Japan. Even a high-ranking official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said to this effect that the joint development mentioned in the agreement meant Japanese cooperation with China in its development activities. This kind of attitude could cause China to lose international trust.

The agreement followed a joint statement on “comprehensive promotion” of “mutually beneficial strategic relations,” which then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued after their summit in Tokyo in May 2008. China should remember that both leaders agreed to turn the East China Sea into a “sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.”

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