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Amid tension, Japan, China talk about energy-saving

by Kyoko Hasegawa
Tokyo (AFP) May 29, 2006
Japan shared lessons Monday with China on how to become more energy efficient and protect its environment from rapid industrialization, amid strained ties between the countries in part over oil and gas resources.

Some 550 Chinese officials and specialists headed by Commerce Minister Bo Xilai joined about 300 Japanese participants on the first day of the three-day forum, discussing the steel, automobile, cement, fuel cell and other sectors.

"We would like to strengthen cooperation with Japan, a front-runner in energy-conservation and environmental technology," Bo said.

He held talks over the weekend with his dovish Japanese counterpart Toshihiro Nikai and pledged that China would cooperate with Japan on trade despite political tension between the key commercial partners.

Nikai, a dove in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's hawk-dominated cabinet who has worked with China, said Tokyo wanted to help alleviate diplomatic tensions through the forum.

"It was not easy to bring up the plan to hold this forum with China and to put it on track when bilateral talks over the East China Sea gas fields were at a deadlock," Nikai said. "Now I want to lead this small step into the future."

"I don't think the relationship will get worse," he said, adding that another environment forum will be held in Beijing.

The Chinese delegates will travel outside Tokyo on Tuesday and Wednesday to learn how major Japanese firms, including automakers and power generators, promote energy efficiency and environmental conservation, officials said.

China is the second-largest energy consumer after the United States on the back of its very sharp economic growth over the past decade and more, according to International Energy Agency figures.

Japan, in comparison, is ranked fifth despite its position as the second-largest economy in the world.

China is expected to account for 15 percent of the world's energy consumption by 2030, the IEA said.

Compared with Japan, China uses nine times as much energy to produce one unit of GDP, according to a Japanese trade ministry survey.

Japan, which imports nearly all of its oil, has improved energy efficiency by about 30 percent since the 1970s when it was hit hard by the oil shocks in the Middle East.

Relations between Japan and China have sunk in recent years in part due to a dispute over lucrative gas and oil reserves in the East China Sea.

The two countries are also at loggerheads over history, with Beijing saying Japan must do more to atone for its bloody 1931-1945 occupation of China.

Koizumi, who steps down in September, has infuriated China and South Korea by going each year to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 top, or Class-A, war criminals.

Bo urged Japan to "face up correctly to the history issue so as to arrange conditions for further development of the bilateral economic and trade relations."

Related Links

GE to invest 50 mln dlrs in environment-related R and D in China
Beijing (AFP) May 29, 2006
US conglomerate General Electric said Monday it will invest up to 50 million dollars in environmental research and development in China over the next five years

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