China and Japan agreed yesterday to hold a new round of consultations on the East China Sea gas issue at an early date to resolve their gas dispute, said an official of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.
The agreement came after informal talks at a working level held yesterday morning between Cui Tiankai, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department and Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asia and Oceania Affairs Bureau, the Japanese official said anonymously.
"Both sides agreed that the fourth round of negotiations will be held as soon as possible, perhaps in late January or early February, around China's Spring Festival holiday," he said.
"The Chinese officials said they were studying the issue and planned to present a new plan at the next meeting," he added.
Nobuyori Kodaira, director-general of Japan's Natural Resources and Energy Agency, also took part in the talks, according to the official.
The two sides also reviewed the current bilateral ties and other issues, expressing their will to improve the chilly relations, according to the official.
China and Japan have held three rounds of consultations on the East China Sea issue since October 2004. The third round was held from September 30 to October 1 last year in Tokyo, during which the two sides exchanged views on demarcation of the East China Sea and the possibility of launching joint sea resource development projects.
The second round was held in Beijing in May 2005. The two parties had an in-depth 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.
The two sides have agreed to peacefully resolve the issue in line with the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries during their meeting in Jakarta.
The energy dispute between China and Japan was caused by an unsettled demarcation line in the sea where the two countries' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones overlap.
Both sides had agreed in the last round in Tokyo to meet again in October, but the negotiation was stalled after Koizumi's October 17 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including Class-A war criminals from the Second World War.
(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2006)