07/05/2011, 00.00
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Japan proposes joint development of Diaoyu Islands to China

For years, the two nations have squared off over the small group of islands in the East China Sea. Now Tokyo proposes their joint development, but Beijing wants total control over the area.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, who is visiting China, has called for a formal agreement between the two nations on East China Sea exploration and development. His proposal comes after Beijing “lodged solemn representations with the Japanese side” over the presence of Japanese fishing boats near the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku in Japanese), which are claimed by both sides.

Matsumoto, who became foreign minister on 9 March, met his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and State Councillor Dai Bingguo. He also had a phone conversation with Vice-President Xi Jinping.

Hidenobu Sobashima, a spokesman for Matsumoto, told a briefing yesterday that the islands were discussed, but did not give specific details. However, he said that Matsumoto had suggested to Yang that a legally binding agreement between the two sides should be reached to facilitate joint exploration in the East China Sea. The “atmosphere is more promising than a little earlier,” Sobashima noted.

Both nations claim the small group of islands, which have rich fishing grounds and are believed to be energy-rich.

In 2008, the two sides agreed on joint gas development, but little progress has been achieved so far.

In 2010, confrontation prevailed following repeated incidents, some serious, involving patrol boats from both sides, which prevented fishing trawlers and other ships from entering the area.

Following Beijing’s protests, ten Japanese fishing boats left the area yesterday, perhaps to facilitate talks.

The two sides also discussed trade and Chinese restrictions on the sale of rare earths, which are essential to Japan’s high tech industry.

China is involved in disputes with other countries over other groups of islands.

In the case of the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands, Taiwan has also put forward its own claim.
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