China offered Thursday to hold talks with Japan on their dispute over control of the East China Sea, where both sides hope to find oil and gas to fuel their booming economies.
"China stands ready to start a new round of consultations on the East China Sea as soon as possible," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang. "We can bring all the relevant issues to the table then."
Beijing protested angrily when Tokyo said this month that it would allow gas-drilling in a disputed section of the sea.
The area where Tokyo has approved drilling is east of the line that Japan regards as its sea boundary with China, but Beijing disputes that demarcation.
Tokyo's announcement came during anti-Japanese protests in China this month that left windows broken at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested that Tokyo and Beijing might exploit the area jointly, saying the disputed territory could be a "sea of cooperation."