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China reserves right of "reaction" to oil drill

P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: China has protested to Japan over its "serious provocation" of initiating steps to permit its firms to test-drill for oil and natural gas in the disputed waters of East China Sea.

With China reserving the "right" of resorting to some unspecified follow-up "reaction," the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Thursday called for dialogue between the two countries to address their conflict of interests. Mr. Koizumi also echoed an earlier Chinese statement by suggesting that the disputed waters be turned into "a sea of coordination." He said China and Japan "need to continue talks from a big point of view." The objective should be to proceed "without inflaming conflicts."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said Tokyo's "provocative" step was against not only the "rights of China" but also the relevant "norm of international relations."

The basic maritime dispute between Beijing and Tokyo was about the "demarcation of the continental shelf of East China Sea." Noting that Japan was trying to "impose" on China "a unilaterally-conceived demarcation line," Mr. Qin said Beijing would "never recognise this" line, which Tokyo referred to as the "median" that should determine the extent of the economic zones of the two.

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