Conflict in the East China Sea


While many Americans are focused on Iraq and the Gaza pullout, tensions in East Asia between Beijing and Tokyo continue to escalate.  While these two Asian giants have continuously argued over Japan's wartime aggression, the current debate involves natural resources and each country's claims for exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea. 

In July, Japan's Teikoku Oil Company was issued an exploratory license by Tokyo to drill for natural gas.

Now, the firm's president wants greater assurances from the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that its workers will safe from possible violence from angry Chinese nationalists.  According to the Japan Times:

Teikoku Oil Co. President Masatoshi Sugioka said Friday the company was willing to explore for gas in the East China Sea despite the risk of Chinese interruption, but it wanted assurance from Tokyo that its workers on the project would be safe.

China's rigs are just inside its side of the median line that Japan recognizes as dividing the exclusive economic zones of the two Asian powers, but Beijing has not accepted it. Tokyo fears that resources on its side of that line might be sucked up by the Chinese project.

With electrical shortages plaguing much of its manufacturing base in the Yangzte River Delta around Shanghai this summer, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Communist leaders in Beijing are in desperate trying to gain control over more sources of energy to power its rapidly growing economy in the years ahead.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions are not the only headache for Asian experts in Washington.  With oil prices hitting $70 a barrel and political relations between Hu and Koizumi ice cold, a disturbing question hangs over Asia:  Will there be more conflict in the East China Sea? 

Only time will tell, but the outlook doesnot look so good.

Brian Schwarz    8 30 05