China and Japan have agreed to jointly explore part of the gas deposits in the East China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Wednesday.
This is the first concrete agreement the two countries have reached to explore undersea resources.
The agreement is part of the two sides' recent efforts to improve their relations, which have warmed considerably over the past two years.
As the first step, the two countries will conduct joint exploration in an area chosen by both.
The two countries have also agreed to continue consultations on possible joint explorations in other parts of the sea.
Chinese enterprises welcome Japanese firms to jointly explore the Chunxiao oil and gas field in accordance with China's laws on cooperation with foreign firms to explore offshore petroleum resources, Jiang said in a statement.
The two sides will hold detailed talks before signing a formal treaty.
"The joint exploration is a transitional step to protect each other's legal positions till a demarcation line is set," the statement said.
Jiang called the agreement "an important step" to realize the common goals of the two countries to make the East China Sea "a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship".
The two countries reached the mutually beneficial agreement through consultations, aimed at seeking common ground and shelving the differences, she said.
The result is conducive to enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation on energy and other areas, and taking Sino-Japanese relations to a higher level, Jiang said.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told a news conference: "It is a welcome development in Japan-China relations and a specific achievement in our strategic relations."
Komura said the agreement "serves mutual benefits and interests".
(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)