CHINA> Wen in Japan
Abe aide: Japan, China must jointly develop gas projects
Updated: 2007-04-13 16:10

Japan said China must jointly develop all natural gas projects in the East China Sea, rejecting China's contention that it can go forward with some developments because they are in areas not claimed by Japan.

"We believe the areas are under dispute until we set borders," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a regular press conference in Tokyo today. "We will address our claim at the next meeting with China in May."

Asia's two biggest oil users have been discussing disputed rights to reserves that may include as much as 200 billion cubic meters of gas. China says its territory extends to the end of the continental shelf, while Japan says the sea border is halfway between the countries' shores.

"China will cooperate with Japan on projects that are in disputed parts," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday in Beijing. "China doesn't recognize the 'middle line' boundary that is claimed by Japan.''

China's projects are within boundaries defined by the United Nations and other international maritime laws, he said.

Qin's comments came hours after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech to Japan's parliament that the two countries should set aside their dispute and cooperate on developing the natural gas fields.

Cnooc Ltd., China's biggest offshore oil producer, said it has pumped oil and natural gas from the Tianwaitian field, one of those at the center of a territorial dispute with Japan. It produced 42 barrels of crude oil and 4 million cubic feet of natural gas a day last year, the Beijing-based company said on March 11 in its 2006 annual report.

The Tianwaitian field is among four in the Xihu Trough, a 59,000 square-kilometer area being drilled by companies including Cnooc.

The gas fields lie in an area between the Chinese city of Shanghai and the southern Japanese island of Okinawa that both say is within their exclusive economic zones.