Chinese and Japanese diplomats who met in Wuhan , the capital of Hubei province, over the past two days agreed to continue dialogue to improve bilateral ties, battered by a territorial dispute in the East China Sea.
The Japanese foreign ministry said yesterday that Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of its Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and his Chinese counterpart Luo Zhaohui discussed the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.
It said the two sides pledged to communicate at the vice-ministerial level and below and made arrangements for the next round of talks, Kyodo News reported.
The director general-level meeting was the third since September, when the Japanese government announced plans to purchase three of the five islets from a private land owner, triggering strong protests from Beijing.
Four Chinese maritime surveillance vessels were spotted in waters near the disputed islands on Sunday, the Japanese coastguard said.
Mainlanders have vowed to boycott Japanese products because of the dispute, affecting Japanese companies' business plan on the mainland. Carmaker Toyota said yesterday it expected to sell 200,000 fewer vehicles on the mainland in the second half of its fiscal year because of the territorial row.
Mazda said that it sold 9,511 new cars on the mainland last month, down 45 per cent year on year.
The two countries have attempted to ease tensions ahead of a key Communist Party congress in Beijing, which will start on Thursday.
The dispute was discussed at a secret meeting in Shanghai last month between Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Japanese counterpart Chikao Kawai.
But Premier Wen Jiabao is not expected to have formal meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda this week, even though both leaders are in Vientiane, Laos, for the Asia-Europe Summit.