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    Clean burning

    It’s been a while since there was much news about the disputed East China Sea gas fields, but another round of talks begins today:

    At the third round of talks, Japan proposed joint development of gas fields at four locations that straddle the midline boundary [between Japan and PRC territories] and run along a fossil fuel vein, including the Shungyo field. China continues in its stance of not recognizing the midline as the boundary and, in addition, has taken the position that the Shungyo field is in “non-disputed waters” (in the words of the Foreign Minister) on the western side of the midline and that resources there are China’s.

    All kinds of progress, huh? The Asahi has an English report that’s already much more detailed, though of course no specifics have emerged yet from this fourth round of talks. The new talks are in no small part the work of the new Minister of Trade, Economy, and Industry:

    Since succeeding Shoichi Nakagawa as trade minister in October, Nikai has taken a more conciliatory stance.

    Nakagawa had attempted to pressure China by granting test drilling rights over the disputed East China Sea gas fields to a private Japanese firm.

    Nikai argued that even if the rights were granted, private companies would not be able to do any work if China maintained a confrontational stance.

    Nikai’s repeated calls for more talks apparently convinced China that compromise is possible.

    China finished laying a pipeline from Chunxiao [I’m calling it “shungyo,” the Japanized pronunciation for 春暁, though the Japanese name is supposed to be “shirakawa”.–SRK] to the Chinese mainland in October. Experts thought China was about to start production, but there has been no noticeable work since then. Government sources say China has likely halted operations temporarily to save face for Nikai.

    So the consensus, such as there is, seems to be that this particular round of talks will accomplish demonstrations of goodwill but no actual progress on exploration and drilling policy. Next time, maybe?

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