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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Asian giants keep up war of words
A gas drilling rig operated by a Chinese consortium in the East China Sea (July 2004)
Both countries have claims over East China Sea deposits
China and Japan have kept up their war of words over disputed gas reserves and Japan's wartime behaviour.

China said Tokyo's decision to issue drilling rights in a disputed area of the East China Sea was a "serious provocation".

But Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura signalled he would take a tough line in weekend talks in China.

China has seen violent protests over Japanese textbooks which critics say play down Japan's wartime brutality.

The protests were also directed at Tokyo's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

China and Japan increasingly competing for natural resources
Have never agreed a maritime border
Also dispute ownership of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands

The Chinese government said it had lodged a protest with Japan following Tokyo's announcement on Wednesday that it was starting to review applications to drill for gas in the East China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called the decision a "serious provocation to the rights of China and the norm of international relations", according to China's state media.

Mr Machimura, who is due to make a one-day visit to Beijing on Sunday, signalled that Japan was not ready to back down over the row.

He repeated Tokyo's demand for an apology and compensation for damage caused by the protests.

"Destructive actions are not acceptable. We cannot accept remarks which appear to put the blame on Japan," Mr Machimura told a parliamentary panel.

China pledge

Chinese protesters set light to a Japanese flag

Senior diplomats from Japan and China are reported to have met in the Chinese capital, Beijing, on Thursday.

The Japanese news agency, Kyodo, said the Chinese side gave security assurances regarding Mr Machimura's Beijing visit.

Last Saturday, a 10,000-strong gathering marched in Beijing to voice their anger at the textbooks - the city's biggest protest since 1999.

Japan has already begun processing applications from companies which want to explore the disputed area of the East China Sea.

Both China and Japan claim the area as lying within their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Japanese companies have been waiting for 40 years to be given the go-ahead to drill in the area, which has a potentially vast reserve of natural gas and oil.

China and Japan are heavily dependent on imported energy, and both are seeking new sources of energy to power their economies.

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