Japan Regrets China Drilling in Disputed Gas Fields

Source:

"China's leading offshore oil firm has been producing oil from a disputed gas field."

Japan expressed regret on Wednesday after China's leading offshore oil firm said it had been producing oil from a disputed gas field in the East China Sea, in the latest dispute to strain relations between Asia's two biggest economies.

Song Enlai, chairman of China National Offshore Oil Corp's (CNOOC) board of supervisors, told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that the state-controlled company was already pumping oil from Chunxiao gas field, known as Shirakaba in Japan.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tokyo was looking into the matter after the Asahi newspaper in Japan reported Song's comments on Wednesday.

"It is very regrettable that a media report naming a CNOOC official has been released. We are checking with the Chinese side about this," Edano told a news conference.

Ties between the two countries chilled in September following a territorial spat, and the two governments have also been at odds over China's search for natural gas and oil in an area where sovereignty is contested.

The two countries agreed in 2008 on principles to resolve the gas feud by jointly developing gas fields, but efforts have foundered since then and Japan has accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the agreement.

CNOOC said in a 2006 annual report that it was pumping oil and gas from one of the disputed gas fields. An industry source said back then that the firm was ready to begin producing from Chunxiao as soon as Beijing gave the go-ahead.

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