TOKYO — Japan has lodged a protest with China over its apparent deployment of drilling rigs near the median line separating the two countries’ economic zones in the East China Sea, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.”It is extremely regrettable that China is proceeding with unilateral development in the area, while the boundary between Japan and China in the East China Sea is not yet fixed,” Kishida, who doubles as defense minister, told reporters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government protested through diplomatic channels after confirming China’s activity last month, Kishida said, adding Tokyo will continue to call on Beijing to stop its unilateral development of gas fields near the median line.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a press conference that Japan is urging China to swiftly resume stalled negotiations based on a 2008 bilateral accord on joint gas development in the area.
So far, Beijing has developed 16 structures on the Chinese side of the median line between the shorelines of the two countries. Tokyo is concerned that China may siphon off resources from beneath the Japanese side of the line.
The latest activity by Beijing is believed to be aimed at boring for gas for development of a new structure, a Japanese government official said.
It was the first time since October 2016 that China’s mobile drilling ships were spotted near the median line.
Kishida, meanwhile, said Japan also has “great interest” in Beijing’s military buildup, adding China should “explain to its neighboring countries about its security policy with high transparency.”
China held a military parade in Inner Mongolia on Sunday to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Liberation Army.
The parade at a training base involving some of the 2.3 million-strong army, broadcast live by official media, is apparently intended to demonstrate President Xi Jinping’s firm grip on power at home and abroad, ahead of a once-in-five-year congress of the Communist Party of China in the fall.