Washington, Oct. 30 (ANI): As China and Japan are involved in a spar to gain control of a tiny group of islands in the sea between them, the deeper issue is whether which of Asia's two biggest economies will first gain control of the valuable oil and natural gas located there.
Since mid-September, a number of Chinese ships have sailed close to the eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea in order to assert its claim there.
Japan now controls the islands, known as the Senkaku in Tokyo and the Diaoyu in Beijing. It had announced in September that it was buying the islands, which sparked mass street protests in China and a diplomatic crossfire so intense that US officials have urged calm.
"If they could get it, oil and gas would be hugely important," Liu Chia-jen, petrochemicals analyst with KGI Securities in Taipei said.
"But whoever makes that move will run into trouble," he says, adding that because of those tensions, the potentially enormous oil and gas fields in the region are likely to stay untapped for a while," Liu Chia-jen added.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, China is the second largest net importer of oil after the United States. Heavily-industrialized Japan is the third, it said.
Years of rapid growth have led to China's fuel consumption soaring, and the country has been quicker than Japan in plumbing the East China Sea.
According to the report, Japan, which has relied heavily on nuclear power, has also seen its oil usage jump since its nuclear power plants went idle after the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis last year.
Just how much oil is at stake in the East China Sea is uncertain.
CNOOC Ltd., a Chinese offshore driller, estimated that in the East China Sea proven oil reserves were at about 18 million barrels and gas reserves at 300 billion cubic feet last year.
The US Energy Information Administration, meanwhile, estimates that the East China Sea has between 60 and 100 million barrels of oil in "proven and probable reserves" and 1 trillion to 2 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves, the report added. (ANI)