China claims disputed East China Sea Chunxiao field

China said its exploration for oil and natural gas in the East China Sea does not fall into waters shared with Japan and can be conducted on a unilateral basis.

Apr 12th, 2007

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 12 -- China said its exploration for oil and natural gas in the East China Sea does not fall into waters shared with Japan and can be conducted on a unilateral basis.

"It is a natural exercise of our legitimate sovereign rights and interests," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at an Apr. 12 briefing. "We hope Japan will have a clear understanding of this point."

Qin said China's current exploration is conducted in Chinese waters of the East China Sea and that under the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea, China has adequate legal cover for its operations.

At dispute is Chunxiao field—named Shirakaba by Japan—which lies a few km west of the Japan-designated median line that ostensibly separates the two countries' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones. China does not recognize the line.

Under the UN Convention, which Japan and China have both signed, coastal nations can claim an economic zone as far as 370 km from their shores. But Japan and China have overlapping claims in the disputed area, and the UN has until May 2009 to issue a ruling.

Meanwhile, China National Offshore Oil Corp. announced production results in Tianwaitian field, one of four fields in the Chunxiao oil and gas field group located in the East China Sea.

CNOOC said Tianwaitian was producing 42 b/d of oil, while natural gas production in 2006 was 113,267 cu m/day. It said the field's gas reserves total 985.4 million cu m, while oil reserves total 500,000 bbl.

It was unclear whether production has commenced at any of the three other fields, Canxue, Duanqiao, or Chunxiao-Shirakaba.

When announcing its annual results, CNOOC did not disclose any production details for disputed Chunxiao-Shirakaba field, and Chairman and Chief Executive Fu Chengyu also declined to reveal whether production had started, saying the issue is "too sensitive" to discuss.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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