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China, Japan Begin Fresh Talks On Resource-Rich Waters

China and Japan began a fresh round of talks in Beijing March 6 on disputed gas-rich waters. The two nations, among the world's top energy importers, have been sparring for years over potentially lucrative gas fields in a part of the East China Sea where their 200-nautical-mile (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zones overlap.

Japan suggested in the last round of talks, that took place in October 2005, that the two nations cooperate on development of the gas resources and its chief negotiators were hoping to get a Chinese reply this week. "Our proposal is for joint development in the area crossed by the central line. This is the essence of the proposal we sent to the Chinese side last time," a Japanese official told AFP.

China may itself propose joint development at the talks, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. However, it could be a major hurdle for the two sides to agree on the exact geographic limits within which bilateral cooperation is to take place, according to Xinhua.

China began drilling unilaterally in the area in 2003. Japan is concerned that the Chunxiao and Duanqiao gas fields which China is developing stretch into what Tokyo considers its sector. Last week, China stressed its claim to its gas field in the Chunxiao area.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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