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    Rough seas

    If Japan pays attention to US-China relations, China also knows to pay attention to Japan-Korea relations. This is from the Nikkei:

    Chinese newspapers such as The China Daily and The Beijing Times reported on 23 April that China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency has evaluated the agreement between Japan and South Korea revolving around maritime exploration in the area around Takeshima (Korean: Tokuto) as “a result that is to Japan’s advantage.”

    Xinhua’s commentary about this round of discussions indicated that, while it appeared that both sides had made concessions, Japan had “snatched up all the rights to take the lead.” It explained that Japan had squeezed Korea by suddenly announcing that it was going to begin maritime exploration and putting its surveying ships on standby, which backed the ROK into a corner.

    East Asian governments never seem to tire of accusing each other of being sly and underhanded. What’s hilarious in this case, of course, is that the PRC itself has just caused more friction with Japan by putting a blockade around one of the disputed natural gas fields in the East China Sea. (To close the information Moebius Strip, let’s cite a Korean news source on that one.) Maybe that’s okay because it wasn’t sudden?

    Anyway, I’ve been very slack about posting about Japan news lately, so I don’t think I mentioned that Tokyo had, indeed, announced that it was going to start seabed exploration around Takeshima. The dispute that, of course, arose with the ROK was resolved last week:

    Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Saturday that says if Tokyo cancels a planned maritime survey near the Takeshima islets, Seoul will not propose naming seafloor topography around the disputed islets at an international conference in June.

    Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and Yu Myung Hwan, South Korean first vice minister for foreign affairs and trade, reached the agreement to settle the row over the islets in Seoul after their two-day meeting that started Friday.

    Japan will not conduct, at least for the time being, the planned survey strongly opposed by South Korea. In exchange, Seoul gave up a plan to give Korean-language names to the seafloor topography.

    So we can look forward to yet more mutual recriminations in the future.

    Here‘s how the East China Sea (not to be confused with the East Sea, which is what Koreans call the Sea of J***n) situation stood a week ago:

    China has banned ship traffic around a disputed gas field in the East China Sea that is claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo as Chinese workers lay pipelines and cables to tap its resources, Japanese media reported Sunday.

    The move is certain to spur protests from the Japanese government, which has been deadlocked in negotiations with China over rights to the undersea energy deposits. The Pinghu gas field lies in an area that straddles a median line that Japan considers the border between the two countries’ territorial claims.

    China, however, makes a wider territorial claim that envelopes the entire field.

    Chinese maritime authorities have posted a notice that all unauthorized ship traffic will be banned in the waters around the Pinghu field from March 1 to Sept. 30, Kyodo News agency and Fuji Television Network reported.

    Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Japan and China have signed, coastal countries can claim an economic zone extending 370 kilometers from their shores. The disputed reserves lie within both countries’ claims, and the United Nations has until May 2009 to rule on the matter.

    Bear in mind that no one really knows whether there’s a bountiful supply of natural gas under there–the major issue is that the country whose exploration and development are more advanced stands a better chance of winning when the UN rules, so it’s in the best interests of each disputant to find out as soon as possible.

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