No deadline needed ahead of Hu's visit
A deadline should not be set to solve the East China Sea gas field dispute after the failure of the latest round of Sino-Japanese talks to make a breakthrough ahead of President Hu Jintao's historic visit to Japan, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said yesterday.
'The East China issue has a long history, it's very complicated and the key is to find a win-win solution that both sides can accept,' he said. 'We think that artificially setting a deadline for the negotiations is unwise.'
A sovereignty dispute over gas fields straddling the undersea border of the neighbours are one of the top unresolved issues troubling Sino-Japanese relations, and 12 rounds of talks have already taken place.
But the latest round last month, attended by vice-ministerial officials on both sides, again ended without reaching consensus, thwarting hopes that a breakthrough in negotiations could set the scene for the highly anticipated visit by Mr Hu.
If Mr Hu goes to Japan as expected in May, it will be the first visit by a Chinese head of state since Jiang Zemin's in 1998. The trip is seen as critical to cementing the leadership exchanges resumed since former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's 'ice-breaking' visit to China at the end of 2006.
Mr Hu's likely departure in May is widely considered a postponement from April due to negative sentiment in Japan over January's poisoned-dumpling incident, because he had pledged to visit during the cherry-blossom season. But the Foreign Ministry in Beijing has dismissed this speculation, saying that a visit in May would still fall during the season.
Mr Yang and Commerce Minister Chen Deming also called yesterday for the creation of a long-term Sino-Japanese food safety co-operation mechanism.
Officials and experts seem to agree that neither the East China Sea gas dispute nor the dumplings scandal will loom large over Mr Hu's visit.
'We hope that through this visit we can agree on a blueprint for the two countries' long-term development, to perfect the exchange mechanism, to broaden co-operation in different fields, to deepen the content of the strategic beneficial relations, and direct Sino-Japanese relations to a long-term, healthy and stable track,' Mr Yang said.
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences senior researcher Zhang Yunling said: 'The real issue to be resolved in Sino-Japanese relations is how the two countries can work together bilaterally and regionally as China develops rapidly.
'With this resolved, the dumplings incident can be taken care of at a technical level.'
New areas for co-operation that were underlined by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda when he visited China in December were environment and climate change.