July 01, 2017

Japan-China talks see little progress on joint gas fields



The Yomiuri Shimbun

8:23 pm, July 01, 2017

The Yomiuri ShimbunHigh-level officials from the Japanese and Chinese governments met Thursday and Friday in Fukuoka to discuss maritime issues.

The parties agreed to start operating at an early stage a maritime and aerial communication mechanism to prevent accidental clashes between the Self-Defense Forces and the Chinese military. However, no progress was made toward resuming negotiations on joint gas field development in the East China Sea.

China has been steadily developing offshore gas fields on its side of the median line between Japan and China, leaving the Japanese side feeling like it has run out of options.

The talks were attended mainly by both countries’ officials in charge of the issues at their foreign affairs and defense ministries, as well as maritime security authorities.

After the talks, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced that “an intensive exchange of views” had taken place, but did not elaborate.

A source said that the Chinese side expressed an unwillingness to resume negotiations in response to a request to do so from the Japanese side, and the discussions ended without any progress.

The border between Japan and China’s exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea is not clearly demarcated. Japan argues it is the median line, while China insists it should be closer to Japan at the Okinawa Trough, and the differences have not been bridged.

In 2008, both governments agreed to establish a sea area for joint development straddling the median line. They also agreed that one of the four gas fields that China was developing would be developed jointly.

However, the talks broke down after a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japanese government ships off the Senkaku Islands in 2010.

Since then, China has continued to develop the gas fields unilaterally. It has built 16 offshore platforms, 12 of which have been confirmed to be operating.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their meeting in September last year that the two governments would begin discussions toward resuming the negotiations.

Even so, a Japanese government source said: “China feels like it compromised too much in the 2008 agreement. With the talks stalled, China is trying to make its developments a fait accompli

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