Nov. 2 (EIRNS)–In an agreement with important implications for the crisis in the South China Sea, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China’s Premier Li Keqiang have agreed to restore regular discussions on the joint development of oil and gas fields in the East China Sea. This is precisely what China has proposed for the South China Sea since the time of Deng Xiaoping’s reversal of the Cultural Revolution and launching the opening of China–to put aside sovereignty issues temporarily and carry out joint development of the region.
Japan protested earlier this year when China began drilling in a contested area, and China responded, as they have in response to complaints over their developments in the South China Sea islands, that the area was their sovereign territory and they had every right to proceed. However, an agreement from Japan to work together with China is a message to the Philippines (far more under Obama’s control than Japan) that their refusal to work with China is further isolating them from Asia as a whole and endangering their nation.
Liang Yunxiang, a Japanese affairs expert at Peking University, said agreement to resume discussion on the East China Sea was “quite a breakthrough and a gesture of friendliness. It’s more important than historical issues. Part of it will be about how Japan might join in the exploitation of gas fields that China is already tapping.”
It is also notable that on Oct. 30, Japanese Defense Minister General Nakatani said that Tokyo had no plan to take part in U.S.-led “freedom of navigation patrols” in the South China Sea, although Abe is reported to have called on Korean President Park Geun-hye to join with Japan and the US in assuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.