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18

Japan To Search Gas Near Disputed Islands

Japan in search of gas near disputed islands

Fearing China could steal its energy resources, Japan yesterday launched a controversial survey for natural gas near a group of disputed islands also claimed by China and Taiwan, an official said.

The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, lie between Taiwan and Japan.

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The three billion yen (S$47 million) survey will last until October.

China, for its part, plans to develop natural gas near the border of Japan's territorial waters, or exclusive economic zone, in the East China Sea.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said: 'We are worried that the Chinese project could exploit natural resources in Japanese territory and we have informed our concern to the Chinese government.'

Tokyo says it is worried that China could draw resources in Japanese territory via underwater pipelines.

Said an official at the government-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp: 'The purpose of our survey is to accurately measure the estimated amount of natural gas and collect data.'

A previous survey in 1999 estimated the offshore gas field reserve at 200 billion cu m.

Japan is seeking to diversify its energy sources.

'Japan lacks resources and almost 90 per cent of our oil comes from the Middle East, therefore we are trying to diversify supply sources,' the Japan Oil official said.

In June, China proposed to Japan that they jointly develop an offshore gas field in a bid to defuse the row but Tokyo has yet to respond.