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2ND LD: China assures Japan of Machimura's security during visit.

BEIJING, April 14 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN'S COMMENTS IN 8TH GRAF)

Senior Chinese diplomats assured Japan Wednesday of security for Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura during his visit to China, which will take place a week after massive anti-Japan rallies in major Chinese cities, a Japanese ministry official said early Thursday.

The Chinese gave their assurance to Japanese diplomats during talks in the Chinese capital to lay the groundwork for Machimura's visit from Sunday for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, the official told reporters.

Wednesday's talks were headed by Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and Cui Tiankai, chief of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department.

''I asked, 'I hope everything will be all right,' and they replied, 'We are taking proper measures,''' said the ministry official.

The official said the bilateral discussions on Wednesday also included test-drilling for resources in disputed waters in the East China Sea, but declined to elaborate on the talks, which lasted three hours.

''We held the discussions with recent developments concerning the two countries in mind,'' the official said.

The senior diplomats' talks took place as Japan initiated earlier Wednesday procedures to grant Japanese companies concessions to conduct test drilling for natural gas and oil in disputed waters in the East China Sea.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Japanese move is ''a serious provocation of China's rights and international norms.'' He added that China has protested to Japan and ''reserves the right to take further action.''

The move announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry signals Tokyo's determination to secure its marine interests.

It came after Japan had notified China on April 4 of its policy that it may start the procedures if Beijing continues to snub Japan's repeated requests to stop its ongoing explorations and provide details of its gas projects.

A Chinese consortium has been conducting natural gas projects in an area close to a ''median line,'' which Japan claims as demarcation for the two countries' exclusive economic zones in the sea.

China has not accepted the median line, saying its economic waters stretch further than the area designated by Japan. The state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. plans to begin full-fledged drilling in the area close to the line in August.

Japan's announcement over the test-drilling threatens to complicate the already soured bilateral ties.

Last weekend, massive anti-Japan protests were held in China, resulting in the pelting of Japanese diplomatic institutions using rocks and water bottles.

The demonstrators were opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council as well as the country's adoption of a controversial history textbook that critics say whitewash Japan's wartime wrongdoings.

The textbook issue is also likely to figure high on the agenda between the two foreign ministers during their meeting scheduled for Sunday.

The two ministers are also expected to discuss the possibility of setting a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Asia-Africa Conference to be held in Indonesia later this month.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Apr 18, 2005
Words:522
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