MAC: Mines and Communities

Japan, China Eye Energy Cooperation for Better Ties

Published by MAC on 2006-05-30

Japan, China Eye Energy Cooperation for Better Ties


30th May 2006

TOKYO - Japanese and Chinese officials expressed hope on Monday that a new initiative aimed at cooperating in saving energy and protecting the environment would help mend fences between the two countries.

Sino-Japanese relations are at their lowest point in decades, weighed down by a territorial dispute and rows related to Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China from 1931 to 1945.

The two governments agreed on Monday to launch a policy dialogue aimed at thrashing out specific projects and goals on energy conservation. Japan also agreed to help train Chinese specialists in energy conservation and coal-mining.

"It is important for us to seize this forum as an opportunity and launch a number of projects by holding dialogue and exchanges at various levels," Japanese Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai said in a keynote address at the start of a three-day forum of government officials, business leaders and academics from Japan and China.

"Sino-Japanese relations are not like a calm sea in spring," he said. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni Shrine, seen by Beijing as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism, have chilled bilateral ties in the last few years. Japan's war dead, including some convicted war criminals, are honoured at Yasukuni.

Japan and China are also locked in a simmering stand-off over developing gas fields in the East China Sea.

The two sides disagree over the position of the border between their exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea, and Japan fears that energy-hungry China's exploitation of the area could tap into resources in its own zone.

"The two countries have agreed that they will seek to resolve the issue by making the East China Sea the sea of cooperation," said Nikai, known for his close ties to China. "I hope the issue will be resolved at an early date through mutual efforts."

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said closer cooperation on energy and the environment could vastly improve bilateral ties.

"If we can cooperate well in the fields of energy saving and the environment, the people of the two countries will benefit, and I believe it will push up Sino-Japanese ties to a new stage," Bo told the forum. "China and Japan are eternal neighbours."

Resource-poor Japan, which has been developing energy-saving technology since a global oil crisis in 1973, has been helping China reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a part of international efforts to combat global warming.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said he was confident that joint efforts on energy and the environment would help the two sides turn a new page in their bilateral relations.

"To strengthen cooperation on energy conservation and environmental protection at a time when political ties between the two countries face difficulties ... will give new momentum to improve and steadily develop Sino-Japanese relations," Wang said. (Additional reporting by Ikuko Kao) Story by Teruaki Ueno

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