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Japan, China eye 'crisis' plan to avoid sea disputes

Japanese foreign minister pushes for crisis management mechanism with China to solve disputes, especially in relation to East China Sea gas fields and disputed islands

AFP , Wednesday 23 Nov 2011
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Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba Wednesday asked China's Premier Wen Jiabao to agree to set up a "crisis management mechanism" that will aim to avoid conflict over disputed waters, reports said.

China and Japan have often had strained relations, particularly over claims to East China Sea gas fields and disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

Gemba -- on a one-day visit to Beijing -- also called for the resumption of negotiations towards signing a treaty on a joint gas development project in the East China Sea, Kyodo News agency reported, quoting the Japanese foreign ministry.

His talks with Wen were also to lay the ground for a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to China later this year.

In his meeting with Gemba, Wen said Japan and China should work together to boost development in East Asia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"The just-concluded East Asia Summit has demonstrated a strong trend of forging solidarity, development and cooperation within the region," Wen said, referring to the weekend meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Gemba was due to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi later Wednesday before departing for Tokyo.

The crisis management mechanism has been described by Japanese media as a regular dialogue scheme that will involve the two countries' foreign and defence ministries, fisheries and energy agencies, and coastguards.

Japan has long expressed concern over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in the Pacific and over what it calls the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget.

A major crisis erupted between the two countries in September 2010 when Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain near the disputed islands.

China issued protests and scrapped meetings and cultural events in a diplomatic offensive that continued after Japan freed the captain, while nationalist sentiment sparked demonstrations in both countries.

Japan, meanwhile, has bitterly complained that China may have started drilling for gas in an offshore energy field in the disputed waters.

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