China - Japan petrochemical rivalry
- An item on BBC news today:
Japan risks China anger over gas
Both countries have claims over East China Sea deposits
Japan has begun allocating gas exploration rights in an area of the
East China Sea also claimed by China.
The move is likely to anger Beijing, at a time when tensions between
the two nations are already rising.
Violent protests took place in China at the weekend against Japan's
approval of history textbooks, which critics say play down its wartime
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura is travelling to Beijing
on Saturday to try to resolve the row.
According to a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, the rivalry
between the two countries as they jostle for supremacy in Asia is at
the heart of the tensions.
In a statement on Wednesday, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry said it would begin reviewing applications from companies that
wanted to explore the disputed gas fields.
Government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda insisted the timing of the
decision had nothing to do with the escalating row between Beijing and
"It just happened that awarding exploration rights began today," Mr
Hosoda told reporters.
China and Japan increasingly competing for natural resources
Have never agreed a maritime border
Also dispute ownership of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands
Textbook row concerns Japan
Japanese companies have been waiting for 40 years to be given the
go-ahead to drill in what it sees as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ),
which has a potentially vast reserve of natural gas and oil.
Both China and Japan are heavily dependent on imported energy, and
both are seeking new sources of energy to power their economies.
In recent years China has conducted surveys of the disputed area, and
has refused Japanese requests to stop or provide details of its
Now it is China's turn to be annoyed. Japan's decision to allocate
drilling rights in the region comes just one day after Beijing warned
Tokyo against precisely such a course of action.
In the past Beijing has made it plain that the East China Sea dispute
is an important one, characterising it as one of the main bilateral
sticking points with Tokyo.
Washington DC/Mount Rainier, Maryland
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