06/17/2008, 00.00
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“Historic” agreement to exploit East China Sea gas fields not far off

Instead of solving their territorial disputes the two countries seem poised to recognise each other rights to exploit and profit from sea floor energy. In Asia new diplomatic initiatives favour shared economic growth in lieu of finding quick fixes to old disputes.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China and Japan are in the final stages of sealing an agreement on the joint development of gas fields in the disputed East China Sea, an area which both claim.

The two countries “have achieved vital progress in the negotiations on the East China Sea issue, and both sides are now negotiating relevant details,” Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

The two nations “are at the stage of working out final details,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said in Tokyo.

Press sources confirmed that the countries will share rights to invest in and profit from the gas fields in Chunxiao, Duanqiao and Longjing.

The Chunxiao gas field is controversial because it is the closest to the median line claimed by Japan as the sea boundary between the two countries. China has rejected the idea of a median line.

Beside the economic aspects of the issue, crucial for the two largest energy users after the United States, an agreement would be further indication of the thaw in Sino-Japanese relations after the historic visit made by China’s President Hu Jintao to Tokyo in May and of their mutual desire to put aside centuries of quarrels and conflict in favour of cooperation, especially economic.

Mr Hu will visit Japan again next month to attend the G8 summit for what will be his third meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda since December.

Experts point out that the boundary dispute and the issue of who owns what will still be unresolved and that any agreement is only temporary. Both sides want to determine the size of the gas fields before finding final solutions. A joint development of the resource appears to be the best solution to reduce conflicts.

Overall though it seems that Asian nations, especially China, are bent on overcoming “historic” disputes, often very hard to solve, by increasing economic, cultural and technological ties, especially between neighbours, to bring greater stability and prosperity to the region.

Economic ties between China and Japan are already strong, but diplomatic relations have only recently improved.

The same thing is happening between Beijing and New Delhi as China and India try to improve relations despite their territorial differences after the 1962 war.  

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