Maritime dispute between China and Japan involves fishing boats – Fishupdate.com

Maritime dispute between China and Japan involves fishing boats Published:  19 April, 2006

A DISPUTE between Japan and China over maritime economic zones has seen Japanese fishing boats being turned away from alleged gas-rich waters. This has prompted Japanese authorities to express concerns over a possible violation of Japan’s sovereign rights and international laws of the sea.

Japan has reportedly voiced concern and pressed for answers after China drove away Japanese vessels from contested gas-rich waters in the latest dispute between the neighbours, according to todayonline.com.

China has declared that only its own ships involved in energy development can enter the area straddling the two countries’ exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea.

At least two Japanese fishing boats have been turned away, according to Tokyo.

A Japanese government spokesman was reported to have said that they had requested that China respond on the details of the matter quickly and clearly. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called for calm.

“I wonder what they want to do,” Koizumi said of China. “I would like to deal with this cool-headedly.”

The two nations, among the world’s top energy importers, have reportedly been arguing for years over potentially lucrative gas fields in a part of the East China Sea where their 200-nautical-mile (370-kilometre) exclusive economic zones overlap.

China began drilling unilaterally in the area in 2003. Japan is accusing China of crossing into its sector and last year gave the go-ahead for Japanese firms to start exploration. China’s Maritime Safety Administration reportedly declared a no-sail zone from March to September, saying that Chinese ships will be laying cables and pipelines and conducting other work day and night. Chinese authorities were reported to have turned away Japanese fishery boats on March 3 and March 24, a spokesperson at the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s international division said.

Reportedly, Chinese maritime authorities’ boats came close to the fishing boats, blowing a horn and turning searchlights on. The Japanese fishermen reportedly felt threatened and returned to their ports.

The spokesman said that the area was under the management of both Japan and China as the two countries have not set the boundary of their exclusive economic zones and that either Chinese or Japanese ships can fish there. However, China reportedly rejects the boundary and says its economic zone stretches nearly to the point of Japan’s southern island chain of Okinawa.

The East China Sea issue is one of a long list of disputes between Asia’s two largest economies.

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