Japan ruling party considers international arbitration over China dispute

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s ruling party urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government on Wednesday to consider seeking international arbitration over Beijing’s drilling activities in the disputed East China Sea, mirroring similar action by the Philippines.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by conflicting claims over a group of uninhabited East China Sea islets. Last year, Japan called on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea.

At the time, Tokyo accused Beijing of unilateral development despite a 2008 agreement to maintain cooperation on resources development in the area, where no official border between them has been drawn.

China said then it had every right to drill in the East China Sea close to waters it disputes with Japan.

The Philippines has lodged a case with an arbitration court in The Hague about its dispute with China in the South China Sea. China reacted angrily and has pledged not to participate.

Wednesday’s resolution by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) called on Abe’s government to firmly ask China for the prompt resumption of talks on the drilling issue, as well as to consider taking the case to an international arbitration court.

“If China shrugs off the request, some action must be taken,” Yoshiaki Harada, head of an LDP panel on resources development in the East China Sea, told reporters.

“Everyone has agreed that we should not shy away from taking the matter to an international arbitration court and starting preparation for that step should be considered,” Harada said after an LDP meeting on the resolution.

There has been no bilateral dialogue on resources development in the East China Sea in recent years despite repeated calls from Japan for resuming such talks, he said.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Paul Tait