BEIJING, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Japan and China failed to make progress in resolving a long-running dispute over natural resources in the East China Sea in talks in Beijing on Saturday, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.
Komura met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before leading a delegation of six Japanese ministers in wide-ranging economic talks with their Chinese counterparts later in the day, in an event meant to symbolise warming ties.
“We had deeper discussions than in the past, but I can’t say there was any progress, because neither side agreed to the other’s ideas,” Komura told journalists after three hours of what he described as reasonably good talks with Yang.
Eleven rounds of official-level talks have already failed to yield a compromise on the development of gas fields in the East China Sea.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and then-Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe agreed in April that officials should come up with a concrete plan for joint development by the autumn.
Japan’s top government spokesman has said that failure to reach agreement could affect a visit by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda planned for late this year or early next, although China has denied this is the case.
“Both sides agreed to try to resolve the problem before Prime Minister Fukuda’s visit to China,” a Japanese official said later.
Japan and China disagree about the border between their respective exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea. Tokyo fears that China could siphon off resources from geological structures that extend into what it sees as its own economic zone.
China’s state-controlled CNOOC Ltd said in April that it had begun producing gas from the Tianwaitian field and was ready to begin producing from the larger Chunxiao field in the area.
Komura and Yang also signed agreements on mutual cooperation in criminal investigations and on Japan’s final batch of yen loans to China.
Japan has lent China a total of around 22 billion dollars on a disbursement basis in the 28 years since 1979 and will continue to provide some grant aid and technical assistance.
Ties between Tokyo and Beijing were chilled for years by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to a war shrine seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Just over a year ago, then-prime minister Abe made an ice-breaking visit to Chin and this has been followed by a series of friendship events, including this week’s visit to Japan by a Chinese warship, which was the first since World War Two. (Editing by Jeremy Laurence)