Japan has begun planning for the worst. A conflict with China over rich gas deposits in the East China Sea has escalated since late January when two Chinese destroyers entered the area, which has been in dispute for decades. Japan warned China that it would defend its resources there.
But conflict is not inevitable. China's June 2004 proposal to jointly develop a large gas field that straddles a boundary claimed by Japan is an opportunity to cap rising tension, and at long last harvest the resources in the disputed area.
Is this an "offer" that Japan "can't refuse?"
As proposed by China, the sovereignty dispute could be shelved, allowing the governments to jointly develop resources in an agreed area of overlapping maritime claims. Taiwan and China might then jointly develop the resources on the Chinese side of a provisional boundary line. As part of the deal, Japan might be allowed to purchase gas from China at a reduced rate in return for investment in the project.
Sounds like an "I win, you lose" deal to me...
And this gives the game away:
At the very least, all involved should be able to agree on a code of conduct, particularly regarding naval and exploration activities in the disputed area. Such an agreement, if successful, could build confidence and defuse a dangerous situation.
Anyone can find peace if they give up on important issues. I don't think that a "code of conduct" will be of much help. Nice flight of fancy, though.
Hat tip: Real Clear Politics