Noda calls for early resumption of gas talks with China

November 13, 2011 2:18 pm 

By Ko Hirano

HONOLULU, Nov. 13 — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday called for an early resumption of stalled talks with China toward signing a treaty on a joint gas development project in the East China Sea.

In a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Honolulu, Noda requested that Beijing further ease or lift restrictions soon on Japanese food imports that were imposed in the wake of a nuclear accident in northeastern Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to a senior Japanese official.

"We would like to make the East China Sea a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship," Noda was quoted as telling Hu. "In this respect, it is very important to resume talks at an early date regarding negotiations on an agreement over the development of natural resources in the East China Sea."

Hu said China "wants to continue communications (with Japan) and prepare for an early resumption of negotiations," according to the official.

"China maintains the position that it will implement a basic agreement," Hu said, referring to a 2008 bilateral accord on the matter.

Under the accord, the two countries would jointly develop an area near a gas field, known as Longjing to China and Asunaro to Japan. Japanese companies would join the development of the Chunxiao gas field with China, known as Shirakaba in Japan.

China unilaterally postponed the talks in protest against Japan's arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in the wake of collisions last year between a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol ships near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The incident drove bilateral relations to the lowest point in many years.

On China's restrictions on import of Japanese agricultural and food products, Hu was quoted as saying China "will consider further easing (import restrictions), while taking into account scientific grounds and the safety" of such products.

In May, Chinese Premier Wen told then Prime Minister Naoto Kan that Beijing will partially ease restrictions on imports of Japanese farm and food products, provided Tokyo ensures the safety of the products from radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

In the Honolulu talks, Noda and Hu agreed to deepen the two countries' "strategic relationship of mutual benefit." They also agreed to arrange for Noda to visit China in December.

Noda told Hu that Japan-China relations are "very important" for the Asia-Pacific region and the world, and that China's development creates a "major chance" for Japan.

"I think it is important for both Japan and China to deepen engagement in the region and in the international community," Noda said.

It was the first time that the two leaders have had substantial talks since Noda took office in September. They met on the sidelines of a two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which will start Saturday evening.

Noda and Hu met briefly earlier this month on the fringe of the Group of 20 summit in France. (PNA/Kyodo)

LDV/rsm

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