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China, Japan to meet over gas feud
Updated: 2005-09-22 14:37

China and Japan will meet to settle a feud over claims to undersea oil and gas deposits in disputed waters, a Japanese government official said late Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The two sides agreed to resume talks late next week on jointly developing reserves that fall within the countries' U.N.-defined maritime economic zones, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said.

Earlier this week, Tokyo urged Beijing to reverse what it said was a one-sided decision to start extracting natural gas from the Tianwaitian oil field in the East China Sea.

China responded that the new gas drilling activity was within its rights, but said it was willing to negotiate with Japan over the territorial boundary issue.

At the negotiations, Japan will urge China to halt the drilling and provide information on a geophysical survey it has conducted in the area, a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing government rules.

The gas dispute stems from a disagreement over which sea resources the two sides can claim in the waters that separate China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Japan and China have signed, allows coastal countries to claim an economic zone extending 230 miles from their shores. The disputed site lies within both countries' claims, and the United Nations has until May 2009 to rule on the matter, according to the AP report.

In July, Beijing formally protested Tokyo's decision to give a private oil company drilling rights in the disputed area, calling it a severe provocation.

The battle over undersea natural resources comes amid a souring of relations in recent months from separate disputes over textbooks used in some schools in Japan. Critics say the books minimize Tokyo's wartime atrocities.

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