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Monday, April 17, 2006

China bans ships in disputed gas field

Reported here:
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 unauthorised ship traffic will be banned in the waters around the Pinghu field from March 1 to September 30, Kyodo News agency and Fuji Television Network reported. Chinese authorities plan to expand their country’s piping facilities in the region during that period, Kyodo said.

Kyodo cited Tsutomo Takebe, secretary general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as saying that if reports on China’s ban are true, Japan “certainly has to protest” the restriction.

China and Japan are arguing over control of a stretch of the East China Sea that lies midway between their coasts. Both hope to exploit undersea gas reserves there to drive their fuel-hungry economies.

China claims it has rights to the gas, but Tokyo says the two countries should share them. Repeated meetings between both countries aimed at resolving the dispute have ended in disagreement.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Japan and China have signed, coastal countries can claim an economic zone extending 370 kilometres (230 miles) from their shores. The disputed reserves lie within both countries’ claims, and the United Nations has until May 2009 to rule on the matter.
UPDATE: (4/17/06) Japan is not happy with this ban.

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