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2013年7月10日 (水)

中国とガス田 一方的な開発は認められない

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 10, 2013
China’s unilateral development of gas field cannot be tolerated
中国とガス田 一方的な開発は認められない(7月9日付・読売社説)

The latest development is serious and certain to raise tensions in relations between Japan and China, which are already at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It was recently learned that China is developing a new gas field near the median line between the two countries in the East China Sea, an area where a common borderline has yet to be defined.

It can be said that China’s hard-line stance under President Xi Jinping has become clear, with his administration trying to expand his country’s maritime interests by force or through a number of faits accomplis.

In June 2008, Japan and China agreed that both countries would jointly develop the Shirakaba gas field (called Chunxiao in China) located near a median line drawn at equal distances from the coastlines of the two nations. Both countries also agreed they would designate specific waters that straddle the median line to jointly develop, while agreeing to continue negotiations over possible joint development in other waters.

China claims wider EEZ

The agreement was made as both countries were unable to close the rift in views concerning the delineation of their respective exclusive economic zones, in which nations have sovereign rights over seabed resources. Japan asserted that a median line should be drawn at equal distances from the coastlines to delineate respective EEZs while China claimed an EEZ that stretches farther east, saying its continental shelf extends to the Okinawa Trough.

The area where China has recently been confirmed to have begun establishing a drilling facility is located about 26 kilometers west, toward China, of the median line favored by Japan. The unilateral act of China’s developing the area without a bilateral accord with Japan is intolerable.

It stands to reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized China by saying, “We want China to abide firmly by the bilateral accord.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also lodged a protest over China’s latest action.

But a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry said there was nothing for China to be criticized for as the development activity is in Chinese waters. Does this mean China is saying there is nothing wrong with its developing an area closer to China from the median line?

The latest gas field development attests to the Xi administration’s intention of accelerating China’s drive to become a “maritime power,” by promoting natural resource development in the East China Sea, as it is doing in the South China Sea.

China has not only repeatedly had its surveillance ships enter Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands but also had its marine research vessels intrude into Japanese waters recently. The country has also dispatched other survey vessels to an area within Japan’s EEZ, about 85 kilometers north of Okinotorishima island. These developments indicate that China is trying to expand its maritime interests even in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Japan must press for talks

The recent spate of China’s maritime activities is probably the Xi administration’s attempt to raise pressure on the Abe administration. Japan, in the meantime, should press China to resume the bilateral talks on the joint development of the East China Sea in accordance with the 2008 bilateral accords, while remaining unruffled by China’s pressure.

To begin with, it is China that unilaterally discontinued the bilateral talks over an accord on the joint development of a natural gas field in the area in question, following a collision between a Chinese fishing vessel and Japan Coast Guard patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands in 2010. Even since, Beijing has refused to accept Japan’s requests to resume the talks.

As long as China continues to take such a stance, its image of being “a power of a different nature” that easily breaks its promises made in intergovernmental accords will remain fixed in the international arena.

The Xi administration must suspend the gas field development in question and agree to resume the bilateral talks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2013)
(2013年7月9日01時52分  読売新聞)


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