It won't be long now....
Chinese warships cruise near gas field claimed by Japan
Special to World Tribune.com
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Five Chinese naval ships, including a guided-missile destroyer, were spotted on Sept. 9 near the Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea — the site of a fierce Sino-Japan territorial dispute, Tokyo military officials said.
A Japanese P-3C patrol plane monitored the five Chinese vessels — including a 7,940-ton Sovremenny-class missile destroyer, two 1,702-ton Jianghu I-class missile frigates, a 23,000-ton replenishment vessel and a 6,000-ton missile observation support ship — as they cruised near the gas field, according to the Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The ships were in the open sea about 290 kilometers northeast of Kume Island near Japan's southern island of Okinawa. It was the first time Japan has spotted Chinese warships near the disputed gas field, the MSDF said. The ships did not violate Japanese territorial waters and Japan's military took no action, officials said.
The move comes amid rising bilateral tensions after a Chinese consortium said in August it could begin drilling for natural gas in the Chunxiao gas field as early as this month despite Japan's protests.
Japan maintains that the Chunxiao gas field rigs, which are just on China's side of a median line that Tokyo regards as the two sides' sea boundary, are attempting to tap into a field that stretches into Japanese territory.
China has built a drilling platform east of the line that Japan regards as its sea boundary. Tokyo has demanded that Beijing stop development for fear that potentially rich reserves on the Japanese side might be sucked dry. In July, Japan granted drilling rights for the gas field to the Teikoku Oil Co.
The conflict over control of the sea and its possible energy resources — particularly the undersea gas deposits in the East China Sea that lies between China's eastern coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa — has added to strains in Beijing-Tokyo relations, which have sunk to their lowest level in years.
Japan imports all of its oil, and because much of it passes through the seas surrounding Taiwan, feels its survival depends on keeping those seas stable. Mainland China's control over Taiwan could hurt Japan's access to oil, Tokyo officials fear.