China, Japan to cooperate in offshore gas exploitation

With the near-simultaneous Beijing Olympics and Hokkaido G8 summit about to open, China and Japan announce they have resolved their dispute over gas fields in the East China Sea. What a feel-good globalization-fest we are going to be subject to this summer. From the IHT, June 18:

China and Japan agree to end offshore gas dispute
TOKYO — China and Japan reached an agreement on Wednesday to end a long-running dispute over control of offshore natural gas fields, an apparent sign of warming ties between the two estranged Asian powers.

The agreement, announced by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, clears the way for joint development of two gas fields in disputed waters of the East China Sea.

The two sides compromised by allowing China to take a leading role in the fields’ exploration, with Japanese companies investing in and sharing the profits from the Chinese development.

The agreement appears to defuse a dispute that had become a symbol of the growing competition between fast-rising China and Japan, long Asia’s pre-eminent power. With its potent mix of competition over energy resources and conflicting territorial claims, the clash over drilling rights had stirred strong emotions in both countries…

The dispute flared four years ago, when China began unilaterally drilling in one of the fields. Japan responded with a rare show of force for the normally pacifist nation, sending in naval ships and aircraft to patrol the area, sometimes coming within sight of the Chinese drilling platforms. Tensions seemed to escalate when Chinese patrol boats stopped a Norwegian ship hired by Japan from conducting undersea surveys.

The standoff came during a low point in modern relations between China and Japan, the experts said. The Japanese prime minister at the time, Junichiro Koizumi, had already angered Beijing by ignoring its concerns to make regular visits to a Tokyo war shrine.

Relations finally began to improve two years ago, when Koizumi’s successor, Shinzo Abe, made a surprise visit to Beijing immediately upon taking office. This upward trend has continued under Japan’s current prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda.

In May, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, became the first Chinese leader to visit Japan in a decade. Earlier this week, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced that one of its warships would visit a Chinese port for the first time since World War II.

Accord protested in Beijing
A small crowd of Chinese protesters outside the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday denounced the natural gas deal, saying it could betray national interests, Reuters reported from Beijing.

Too bad the protesters were almost certainly Chinese nationalists and not ecologists. Are we finally moving into the post-post-9-11 era, with the fracturing of globalization and re-emergence of national rivalries finally running their course—back towards the status quo ante of the ’90s, in which capitalism can go about its work of destroying the planet in (relative) peace? Oh well, it won’t make any difference to the Tibetans and the Ainu…

See our last posts on Japan, China, and the struggle for global oil.