(AFP) – Oct 12, 2007
TOKYO (AFP) — Japan and China remain at loggerheads over their claims to the energy-rich East China Sea despite a new round of talks, a Japanese official said Friday.
Asia's two largest economies, which are both major energy importers, are locked in a long-running row over their territorial waters and have held regular talks on the issue since 2004.
The latest one-day session took place behind closed doors in Beijing Thursday.
"On the development of the East China Sea there's a considerable gulf to be filled between the two nations," Tomohiko Taniguchi, the deputy press secretary of Japan's foreign ministry, told reporters.
"The Japanese government has repeatedly requested that a high-level political decision be made on the Chinese side about the way in which the East China Sea gas field should be developed jointly between China and Japan."
China began drilling in the gas-rich area in 2003, provoking outrage in Tokyo.
Hopes for a settlement were raised after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid a landmark visit to Japan in April and agreed with his then Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, to find an amicable settlement.
But talks since then have yielded no apparent progress. China says the entire area which is the focus of the dispute is part of its waters.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who replaced the conservative Abe last month, is known for his conciliatory views towards China, which often clashes with Japan over wartime memories.
Fukuda, however, has said his first trip as premier will likely be to the United States. Most premiers have gone first to Washington, Japan's main ally, although Abe travelled to Beijing days after taking over in a bid to ease tensions.
Taniguchi said Fukuda also hoped to go to China as it would be an "important step in order for Japan to welcome President Hu Jintao from China to Japan" sometime early next year.
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