Pouring oil on the East China Sea

Some ongoing tensions between Japan and China are detailed here.

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.

The East China Sea is thought to contain up to 100 billion barrels of oil – it is one of the last unexplored high-potential resource areas located near large markets. The development of oil and gas in much of the area has been prevented for decades by the boundary dispute. The Japanese government has refused to let companies explore and develop the resources in the area because it says that it could adversely affect relations and negotiations with China on the boundary.

But now China is drilling near the boundary claimed by Japan. Tokyo has officially protested the drilling and is now considering allowing some companies to drill on Japan’s side of its claimed boundary. Just the possibility has been protested by Beijing.