A Chinese state-run oil company says it has started production at a natural gas field in the East China Sea near a disputed maritime boundary with Japan.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) quotes a senior government official as saying full-scale production began last month at the Chunxiao gas field.

CNOOC's Web site says the official made the comment during a visit to the gas field in late July.  Chinese workers began drilling at the site last year to explore for gas.

The gas field straddles the disputed sea boundary between China and Japan.  Beijing says the exploration work lies within Chinese territorial waters, but Tokyo has complained that China's actions could drain energy reserves from Japanese territorial waters.

Tokyo has proposed that Japan and China carry out joint exploration for gas in the area.  Beijing has rejected the idea.  Both sides have held several rounds of talks on the dispute, but the last meeting in July failed to break the deadlock.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.