Japan Confirms Ships Headed to Disputed Fields in East China Sea

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Kyodo News, 10 October 2005
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Japan has confirmed that vessels carrying pipes are sailing in the East China Sea toward two gas fields that have been at the center of a dispute between Japan and China over exploration rights there, the trade minister said Friday.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said at a press conference that Tokyo received information on Thursday that the ships are heading to the Tianwaitian and Chunxiao fields. He did not refer to the nationality of the vessels.

Japan has made an inquiry to China over the matter. Beijing has yet to respond, and depending on its response, Japan will consider lodging a protest, Nakagawa suggested.

The move came after the two countries held a meeting in Tokyo to resolve the dispute last week. Japan has proposed holding another meeting in Beijing on Oct. 19 to break the deadlock.

The minister said China is scheduled to provide oil produced from the two fields through pipelines to Shanghai and natural gas to Ningbo in Zhejian Province.

The two fields -- named by the Japanese government as Kashi (oak) and Shirakaba (white birch) respectively -- are located a few kilometers away from what Japan claims as a median line separating the two countries' economic waters.

China disregards the validity of the line and says its waters stretch further to the edge of the continental shelf.

Japan has observed a Chinese consortium starting extraction of either natural gas or oil at the Tianwaitian field in late September. Full-fledged production at the Chunxiao field is also considered imminent as Tokyo has confirmed pipes have been laid there.

The dispute stems from Japan's concern that China might siphon off resources that could be buried under the seabed on the Japanese side of the median line, as underground structures of those Chinese fields were either found connected or could extend to Japanese waters.

During the last round of talks in Tokyo, Japan repeated its demand that China immediately halt its development of the fields and present concrete data in reference to them.

Tokyo also newly suggested that the two countries jointly tap the four Chinese fields near the median line -- the Chunxiao, Tianwaitian, Duanqiao and Longjing. The latter two have been named by the Japanese government as Kusunoki (camphor tree) and Asunaro (cypress).

A government geophysical survey conducted by Tokyo has found that underground structures in the Chunxiao and Duanqiao fields extend into Japanese-claimed waters east of the median line, but it stopped short of confirming the existence of natural resources on the Japanese side.

Kyodo News, 10 October 2005

Japan has confirmed that vessels carrying pipes are sailing in the East China Sea toward two gas fields that have been at the center of a dispute between Japan and China over exploration rights there, the trade minister said Friday.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said at a press conference that Tokyo received information on Thursday that the ships are heading to the Tianwaitian and Chunxiao fields. He did not refer to the nationality of the vessels.

Japan has made an inquiry to China over the matter. Beijing has yet to respond, and depending on its response, Japan will consider lodging a protest, Nakagawa suggested.

The move came after the two countries held a meeting in Tokyo to resolve the dispute last week. Japan has proposed holding another meeting in Beijing on Oct. 19 to break the deadlock.

The minister said China is scheduled to provide oil produced from the two fields through pipelines to Shanghai and natural gas to Ningbo in Zhejian Province.

The two fields -- named by the Japanese government as Kashi (oak) and Shirakaba (white birch) respectively -- are located a few kilometers away from what Japan claims as a median line separating the two countries' economic waters.

China disregards the validity of the line and says its waters stretch further to the edge of the continental shelf.

Japan has observed a Chinese consortium starting extraction of either natural gas or oil at the Tianwaitian field in late September. Full-fledged production at the Chunxiao field is also considered imminent as Tokyo has confirmed pipes have been laid there.

The dispute stems from Japan's concern that China might siphon off resources that could be buried under the seabed on the Japanese side of the median line, as underground structures of those Chinese fields were either found connected or could extend to Japanese waters.

During the last round of talks in Tokyo, Japan repeated its demand that China immediately halt its development of the fields and present concrete data in reference to them.

Tokyo also newly suggested that the two countries jointly tap the four Chinese fields near the median line -- the Chunxiao, Tianwaitian, Duanqiao and Longjing. The latter two have been named by the Japanese government as Kusunoki (camphor tree) and Asunaro (cypress).

A government geophysical survey conducted by Tokyo has found that underground structures in the Chunxiao and Duanqiao fields extend into Japanese-claimed waters east of the median line, but it stopped short of confirming the existence of natural resources on the Japanese side.

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