Saturday, February 28, 2009

Article - Japan, China discuss gas reserve development

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone in Beijing, capital of China, March. 1, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

BEIJING: Japan's foreign minister met with his Chinese counterpart Saturday seeking closer cooperation on North Korean disarmament, the global financial crisis and a joint gas reserve project, despite a diplomatic spat over disputed territory in the East China Sea.

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said the two countries which have the world's second and third largest economies should lead regional initiatives to battle the financial crisis and stimulate trade, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama said.

"As Japan-China relations are now confronted with some difficulties, I would like to communicate with China on how to advance the ties," Nakasone told Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

The two sides avoided inflaming tensions in their long-standing dispute over the East China Sea island chain that China calls Diaoyutai but is known as Senkaku in Japan. But they agreed their conflicting claims should not undermine their overall relationship, Kodama said.

They also agreed that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso will visit China this year, he said.

China lodged a diplomatic protest Thursday after Aso reasserted that the uninhabited island chain between Taiwan and Japan belongs to Tokyo. The islands are controlled by Japan but are claimed by China and Taiwan.

In a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Web site, spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China held indisputable sovereignty over the islands. The issue is a perennial bugbear among Chinese nationalists who resent Japan's brutal World War II-era invasion and occupation of much of their country.

But in their meeting Saturday, the foreign ministers instead discussed an agreement struck last summer to jointly develop oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea, Kodama said. The Japanese did not provide details, only saying they hoped talks would continue soon on the project.

The deal would allow Japan to invest in and claim proportional profits from several projects at a site where Chinese companies are already drilling, while the two countries plan to agree on details for joint exploration at a second location.

The two also discussed North Korea's nuclear weapons program and agreed that all parties should continue their efforts on denuclearization, Kodama said. China is the North's key ally and main donor.

China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States are involved in now-stalled negotiations with North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons.

North Korea announced earlier this week that it was preparing to launch a satellite into orbit, but the U.S. and South Korea believe the launch may actually be a missile test.

Nakasone also expressed concern about China's military modernization and said he hoped for more transparency, Kodama said.

Nearly 20 years of annual double-digit percentage increases in China's defense budget have raised concerns from the U.S. and China's neighbors, but Beijing says any worries are unfounded.

Nakasone is to hold talks with Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday, according to China's Foreign Ministry.

Related site: Japan, China to begin teacher exchanges (AFP 1 March 2009) - BEIJING - China and Japan will launch a bilateral exchange program involving about 1,500 teachers over the next three years, said Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nagasone here Sunday.

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