China and Japan held informal talks on Monday about how to develop oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the East China Sea, one of several sources of tension between them, but agreed only to meet again.
An oil rig in China's Bohai Sea is seen in this October 21, 2003 file photo. China and Japan held informal talks on Monday about how to develop oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the East China Sea, one of several sources of tension between them, but agreed only to meet again.[Reuters]
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said last week that China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest consumers of crude oil, had agreed in principle to develop the area jointly but Tokyo says they are still far apart on details.
Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, held half a day of discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Cui Tiankai, in Beijing, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy said.
"There is this idea to jointly develop resources. We do not exclude the possibility of this joint study but we are not so sure what it really means," the spokesman said.
The negotiations take place amid a range of disputes clouding relations between the two sides, most springing from Japan's invasion and occupation of much of China from 1931 to 1945.
China objects to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where major war criminals are honoured along with millions of war dead. Beijing has also denounced a school history textbook that whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities.
The embassy spokesman said the two sides had an "informal exchange of views" on their overall relations.
PUTTING DISPUTES ASIDE
But analysts said that while the unresolved historical issues set the tone for relations, the gas dispute was the most concrete and immediate problem facing China and Japan.
The two would meet again at the end of January or early next month for further talks, likely in Beijing, the spokesman said.
There was no immediate comment from China's foreign ministry on the talks.
The two sides have not agreed on how much to invest or how to split profits of resources extracted from the areas of the East China Sea near the islands known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyus.
China has criticised Japan for starting to award exploration rights to private companies, and Japan objects to China's starting work in the area, fearing it could tap into resources beyond what Tokyo recognises as a midway line in the waters.
Japan has also long demanded China provide data on its gas development projects in the area.
"They might start actual development of resources and we have concern that their work will absorb our Japanese resources, so we asked them to share their information" the spokesman said.
Sasae, who is also Japan's chief negotiator at six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, met Chinese negotiator Wu Dawei on Sunday, the Japanese embassy said, in a sign the two could put aside bilateral disputes to work together on the regional matter.
The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States last met in Beijing in November but North Korea said on Monday it saw no point in holding further negotiations on dismantling its nuclear programme because of U.S. sanctions against it.