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China has drilling rigs near disputed islands: Japan

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (© AFP)

Tokyo says China has stationed 16 drilling rigs near its de facto maritime border with Japan in the South China Sea amid the escalation of a territorial dispute between the two East Asian countries.

On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga published diagrams demonstrating the location of the Chinese offishore platforms, saying they could exploit undersea reserves in the disputed waters.

“It is extremely deplorable that China is unilaterally developing resources while the border has not been settled,” Suga told reporters, adding that 12 out of the 16 structures have been installed over the past two years.

The Japanse official also noted that the platforms violate a June 2008 accord on joint development of natural gas fields in the contested territories.

Tokyo has lodged protests against Beijing’s moves in the disputed waters, but China has been reluctant “on resuming talks over implementing the June 2008 agreement, even though its activities appear to be continuing,” he added.

The development came one day after Japan censured China over what it called “coercive” attempts to reclaim land in the South China Sea.

In a defense report published on Tuesday, the Japanese government accused China of acting “unilaterally and without compromise” in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Responding to the report, Beijing, however, defended its actions, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang saying, “China always carries out normal maritime activities following international laws and relevant domestic laws.”

The file photo shows the Uotsuri Island, one of the disputed islands in the East China Sea.


In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the Chinese Defense Ministry also slammed the Japanese defense review, saying, “This kind of action completely lays bare the two-faced nature of Japan's foreign policy and has a detrimental impact on peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.”

Meanwhile, a commentary piece, published by China’s Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, said the recent Japanese paper is viewed as interference in the country’s “lawful” island construction activities.

“The white paper has launched unfounded accusations against China’s constructions on its own islands -- obviously an attempt to depict China as a bully in regional conflicts, supporting the Japanese government’s knavish claim over the disputed waters in the East China Sea,” Xinhua said.

China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and is involved in a series of disputes with several regional countries over the issue. Beijing is allegedly engaged in a program of artificial island construction in the region.

Beijing has repeatedly announced that the construction activities fall within China’s sovereign rights, stressing that most of the installations, once completed, will assist navigation in the South China Sea.

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