China and Japan have agreed to discuss the East China Sea dispute following two days of talks that concluded Tuesday in Beijing.
Senior diplomats from China and Japan agreed to hold the third round of talks in Tokyo in the near future to "appropriately handle and address the East China Sea dispute," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.
During the talks, the leaders agreed to implement the consensus reached by President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Jakarta. They had an exchange of views on launching negotiations about the demarcation of the continental shelf of the East China Sea and promoting the joint development of marine resources in the area.
Chinese analysts described the outcome of the talks as "important."
"It means the door to negotiations is not closed," said Wang Shan, an expert on Japan with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "The two sides now have the consensus to address differences through dialogue, and this is a key step toward the solution of the problem."
China and Japan held their first round of consultations in Beijing last October. China and Japan hold differing views on the demarcation line in the waters of the East China Sea.
While the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows coastal countries an economic zone extending 200 nautical miles (230 miles; 370 kilometers) from their shores, Japan proposed demarcating the two countries' exclusive economic zones according to a "median line," which failed to win China's recognition.
The width of much of the East China Sea is less than 400 nautical miles, which has been the cause of part of the dispute. China rejected the "median line" and insisted on negotiations and joint exploration.
During the past several years, however, Japan has protested China's exploration of oil and gas at locations that Beijing says are within Chinese territory. The Chunxiao and Duanqiao gas fields are both on the Chinese side of the "median line."
In July last year, The Japanese side began conducting a survey on deep sea resources in waters east of the so-called "median line." In April this year, the Japanese government began granting Japanese firms the right to conduct test drilling for potential gas and oil fields in the disputed waters of the East China Sea, which Japan unilaterally claimed as its own.
Such moves aroused serious concerns from China and were referred to by China as "serious provocation."
Japan's actions in the East China Sea, its approval of a textbook that critics say whitewashes its wartime history and its leader's visits to a shrine for war-dead, which includes WWII Class-A war criminals, have aggravated its relations with China, Chinese analysts said.
"Japan is held mainly responsible for the deterioration of relations for its unilateral actions and breach of the principle of dialogue and consultation," said Liu Jiangyong, a professor on international relations with the prestigious Tsinghua University.
There is still a long way to go before a final settlement of the East China Sea issue because the gap between the two countries' views remains large.
"To find out the final solution to this issue, China and Japan should remain cool-minded and patient on the dialogue process," said Jin Xide, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2005)