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Japan Turns Down Chinese Proposal Over Gas Dispute


Japan has turned down a Chinese proposal to jointly develop gas and oil fields near a disputed island group in the East China Sea. The rejection extends a long-running dispute over territory claimed by both countries.

As two-day Sino-Japanese talks concluded in Beijing Tuesday, China proposed joint exploration of natural gas and crude oil in two areas in the East China Sea.

On Wednesday, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, announced that Tokyo would not go along with the idea. Abe said that this proposal is something they cannot accept.

One of the two areas proposed by Beijing for exploration is close to a disputed, uninhabited island group claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.

The islands, called the Senkakus by the Japanese and Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese, are located in the East China Sea between the east coast of China, the southern Japanese islands, and Taiwan. They are believed to lie near oil and gas deposits, and both China and Japan claim them.

The talks are being held to resolve a disagreement over where in the East China Sea the border between the Chinese and Japanese economic zones lies. The disputed islands are somewhere near the dividing line.

Tokyo is concerned about several ongoing gas projects on the Chinese side of the median line. The Japanese believe that drilling could tap into resources buried under Japanese-claimed waters. The Japanese government has meanwhile given a Japanese company drilling rights in the disputed area.

The talks in Beijing have been hampered by strained relations between the two countries. A major irritant has been the repeated visit of Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a war shrine that China sees as symbol of Japan's militaristic past.

Japan and China have agreed to hold the next meeting on the East China Sea dispute, the fifth of its kind, in Tokyo. A date has not been set.