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2ND LD: China has revised area for sea traffic ban, Japan's ministry says+
[April 17, 2006]

2ND LD: China has revised area for sea traffic ban, Japan's ministry says+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, April 18_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING WITH REVISION BY CHINA)

China told Japan it revised the area for the former's recent ban on maritime traffic in waters near the Japan-drawn median line between the two countries, a revision that results in the banned area lying on the Chinese side of the line, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said early Tuesday.

The notice to this effect was issued to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Japanese ministry said.

Chinese maritime authorities issued a notice in March banning ship traffic in an area of the East China Sea near the median line for expansion work of the Pinghu gas field being developed by a state-owned Chinese concern.

The purpose of the expansion work, from March 1 to Sept. 30 this year, is to lay pipelines and cables on the sea floor, according to the Chinese maritime authorities' website, reported on by the Japanese media on Saturday.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told reporters earlier Monday the area includes waters on the Japanese side of the median line, which Tokyo regards as a demarcation between the two countries' exclusive economic zones. China does not recognize the line.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry later told the Japanese Embassy, however, the Chinese side had made a mistake in defining the banned area and revised it, Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said early Tuesday.

As a result, the banned area does not include waters on the Japanese side of the median line, they added.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Abe said China had not informed Japan of its notice during their talks on March 6-7 in Beijing on the possible joint gas development in the East China Sea.

"It is true that this issue was not mentioned by the Chinese side in the talks," Abe said. "It is important from the viewpoint of building confidence in each other that views are exchanged frankly in those talks."

Tokyo has yet to decide whether it will file a protest with Beijing, as it awaits China's reply to its inquiries, including whether the expansion work is really planned or has started, Abe said.

China has promised to confirm the facts and reply through diplomatic channels as quickly as possible, though reiterating its stance of not recognizing the median line, he said.

Beijing does not recognize the Japan-claimed median line, as it insists it has rights to marine resources east of the line to the edge of the continental shelf near Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

Both the continental shelf and median line demarcation principles are accepted under international law.

Aside from the dispute over the demarcation of waters where the countries' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones overlap, the two sides are discussing how they can jointly develop gas and oil in the East China Sea, but have remained at odds.

Tokyo is concerned about several ongoing Chinese gas projects on the Chinese side of the median line -- located closer to the line than the Pinghu -- as they could siphon off resources that could be buried under Japan-claimed waters because of their proximity to the line.

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