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Japan, China plan talks over gas dispute
Updated: 2004-10-19 16:34

China and Japan will hold talks on October 25th in Beijing over a gas exploration dispute in the East China Sea, said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue Tuesday at a regular press conference.

Earlier on Tuesday, a seniour Japanese official also told reporters that Japan and China are planning talks aimed at defusing a territorial dispute in the East China Sea that has deepened in recent months by competing claims over natural gas deposits.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the two sides were considering a meeting soon to talk over the dispute.

``We are making arrangements so we can hold talks as early as within the next week,'' Hosoda told reporters. He didn't give further details.

Japan and China have yet to work out a border in the East China Sea, where both countries are prospecting for gas to meet growing energy demands.

China has rebuffed Japanese requests for information on its prospecting activities, and has criticized a Japanese proposal to draw a line between the two countries' economic zones in the East China Sea.

On Monday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said the location of Beijing's natural oil development is close enough to the Chinese shores that it should not cause any disputes.

He also repeated Beijing's rejection of Japan's proposed border.

``The center line is only a Japanese proposal and is not a mutually agreed border as a result of negotiations between the two countries,'' he told reporters at the Japan Press Club. ``It is not fair to use this borderline to judge which side is right or wrong.''

China is working on an undersea pipeline in the area northwest of the island of Okinawa. Japan recently began prospecting nearby.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal countries an economic zone extending 200 nautical miles (230 miles or 370 kilometers) from their shores.

But Beijing and Tokyo, both of which signed the convention in 1996, have not agreed where their sea border lies. The United Nations says it will decide on global offshore territorial claims by May 2009.

Japan, the world's second-biggest economy, has almost no natural resources of its own and is heavily dependent on imported oil -- mostly from the Middle East. Tokyo has been negotiating for access to oil and natural gas reserves with Russia and Iran, among others.

China, the world's No. 2 oil consumer behind the United States, has intensified its own efforts to develop resources and has boosted imports to meet the rising energy needs of its fast-growing economy.

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