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East China Sea photos released due to Kantei’s alarm at China’s gas field development

  • 2015-07-23 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: July 23, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 The Japanese government has revealed that China is stepping up its development of gas fields in the East China Sea near the Japan-China median line. Although the two countries had agreed on joint development in 2008, negotiations have remained suspended. China has steadily built facilities during this time. Photos of the facilities were released in answer to the wishes of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence [Kantei]. While Japan intends to call for reopening bilateral talks again, it is uncertain whether China will be willing to talk.

 

 At his news conference on July 22, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained the reason for releasing the photos and maps. He said: “There has been growing interest both at home and abroad in various actions taken by China to change the status quo unilaterally.”

 

 Japan had refrained from publicizing this issue so far. The Defense Ministry was reluctant because releasing photos “may betray Japan’s intelligence gathering capability,” while the hands of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) were full with the Senkaku issue, according to a senior official.

 

 However, the Kantei became increasingly alarmed, with the thought that Japan “cannot afford to allow the relentless building of facilities.”

 

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commented on the development of gas fields at the House of Representatives special committee on the security bills on July 10, arguing that “it is also necessary to respond seamlessly to such major changes in the security environment.” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani also told the committee that “(China) may use these facilities for security purposes,” such as by installing radars or using them as heliports. The above MOFA official admitted that the Kantei’s wishes were behind the release of the photos, remarking that “the chief cabinet secretary gave us the homework, so we had to do something about it.”

 

 With the House of Councillors about to start deliberations on the security bills, which Abe wants to enact in the current Diet session, public opinion polls are showing that the people do not support the bills. Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers specializing in defense issues had also demanded the release of the photos, asserting that “the people need to be informed because this is an issue relating to security legislation.” These Diet members also demanded discussing the gas field development at greater length in the 2015 Defense White Paper. They wanted to show the increasingly harsh security environment around Japan by revealing China’s stepped up activities in the East China Sea, in order to demonstrate to the people the need for security legislation. (Slightly abridged)

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