Around the middle of 2013, it was discovered that China had been building a drilling rig in the East China Sea that was in an area considered by both Tokyo and Beijing as part of their Exclusive Economic Zone. The issue is creating major concerns for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who wants to take the matter of China deciding to drill potential natural gas fields in contested waters to international tribunals. The party, led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has recommended that the government take the issue to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Since July this year, it has been discovered that China has attempted to set up drilling facilities on its side of what Japan claims is the border of its exclusive economic zone, but Tokyo’s concern is that the undersea gas fields in the area could very well extend to Japan’s side. An LDP task force has then submitted a proposal to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to bring the issue to international courts. Suga said that the Japanese government will consider the idea “from a strategic perspective.” Japan and China have been negotiating about jointly developing the fields, but the talks have stalled, and the LDP task force said Japan should not allow these attempts by Chinese companies to develop the gas fields in the East China Sea.
This issue adds to an already complicated situation between Tokyo and Beijing. There is already a prolonged debate and sovereignty dispute over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. Bilateral relations between both countries seem to be at an all-time low, and China’s announcement of a new and controversial air defense zone has stirred the pot yet again. The LDP fears that China is extending its influence and assertiveness to higher levels, and Japan may be put in a very uncomfortable position once the development of the oil fields go into full swing.
[via Kyodo News]
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