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China, Japan Make Little Progress on East China Sea Dispute

  • Luis Ramirez

China and Japan have made little progress following a half-day of talks on resolving a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Officials of the two countries met in Beijing on Monday.

Japanese officials said the meeting between Japan's envoy Kenichiro Sasae and his Chinese counterpart Cui Tiankai ended at noon Monday with a reaffirmation from both sides that China and Japan should improve their battered relations.

Japan also said the two countries expect to resume talks in the coming weeks.

The two sides are locked in a dispute over parts of the East China Sea, where both want to exploit what they believe may be extensive oil and gas deposits.

China and Japan have agreed in principle to work together to develop the resources, but remain far apart on details of how much each side will invest and how to share profits.

As the world's second and third largest energy consumers respectively, China and Japan are eager to find new oil and gas resources. However, Hiro Katsumata, an expert on Sino-Japanese relations at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, says poor ties are slowing negotiations.

"This issue is also a matter of national pride," he said. "Since Japan-China relations are very sensitive emotionally because these anti-Japanese sentiments are very strong in China [and] anti-China sentiments strong in Japan. Therefore, psychologically this issue is so important. Both governments cannot afford to compromise, if you consider the domestic pressure."

Relations have suffered in the past year with Beijing stepping up accusations over Japan's record of military aggression against China in the first half of the 20th century.

China accuses Japan of whitewashing accounts of atrocities committed by its troops during World War Two and has protested repeated visits by the Japanese prime minister to a Tokyo shrine where convicted war criminals are among those honored.

Chinese leaders have allowed - and in some instances encouraged - citizens to demonstrate against Japanese interests, and the protests have sometimes turned violent.

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