Joint pact urged on deep-sea oilfields
Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto has called for the drawing up of a legally binding document on prospecting by Japan and China in the East China Sea and urged China to further relax restrictions on Japanese agricultural products.
Matsumoto, on his first official visit to China since becoming foreign minister on March 9, met Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, State Councillor Dai Bingguo, and also had a phone conversation with Vice-President Xi Jinping .
China lodged a formal complaint about the presence of Japanese fishing boats around the disputed Diaoyu Islands - known as the Senkakus in Japan - on Sunday. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday that the boats left the area after China's expression of concern.
Hidenobu Sobashima, a spokesman for Matsumoto, told a briefing yesterday that the islands were discussed, but did not give specific details.
However, he said Matsumoto had suggested to Yang that a legally binding agreement between the two sides should be established to facilitate joint exploration in the East China Sea.
'Japanese companies have agreement to invest in oil exploration projects by Chinese companies in the East Sea,' he said. 'The two sides have long agreed to have a legally binding agreement, but there is still no progress. We are hoping for some progress in the near future.'
Sobashima said Matsumoto had explained to Chinese officials that Japan and the US knew China could play a constructive role in regional affairs. He also said Matsumoto would follow up on the progress of co-operation agreed to at a trilateral summit between China, Japan and South Korea in May.
'The minister has requested the Chinese side to consider further relaxation of the restriction on Japanese agricultural and fisheries products,' Sobashima said.
He said Japan also raised concerns about China's rare earth exports.
'China's rare earth exports have declined, and there is a difference between the price in China and the price internationally,' he said, adding that Yang reiterated China's stance that it was protecting the environment by controlling rare earth production.