Diaoyu Islands

Xi Jinping to consider summit with Japan over Diaoyu Islands

Party chief is handed letter from Japan premier Shinzo Abe and tells envoy that top-level talks could be held if 'right conditions' are created

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 4:19am

Party leader Xi Jinping called yesterday for dialogue to resolve a territorial dispute with Japan and said he would consider the possibility of a summit meeting between leaders of the two nations if there was a "proper environment".

Xi made the remarks at a meeting in Beijing with Natsuo Yamaguchi, an envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yamaguchi, the head of New Komeito, a member of Japan's coalition government, handed Xi a letter written by Abe calling for more communication between Tokyo and Beijing.

It was the highest-level meeting between the two countries since the row over the Diaoyus, known as the Senkakus in Japan, intensified in September, when Japan announced it was buying three of the uninhabited islands.

"Your visit to China comes when Sino-Japanese relations face an unusual situation," Xi told Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi told a press briefing that Xi said he would "seriously consider" a proposal for a high-level summit, but conditions should be created to make it possible. However, the official account of the talks by Xinhua made no mention of the summit.

Analysts said Beijing was being cautious to avoid angering nationalists who have urged tough action against Tokyo.

"Under the new circumstances, we should … display political wisdom, just like the elder generations of leaders of the two countries, to overcome difficulties and advance … relations," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

Analysts said the mention of "elder generations" was a veiled reference to premier Zhou Enlai's comment, in a meeting in 1972 with Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, that the dispute should be shelved.

Xi also said both sides should respect the principles of the four documents - agreements on promoting bilateral ties reached by the two nations between 1972 and 2008. Chinese analysts said a summit would not happen soon, though tensions may ease.

Liu Zhenmin , Beijing's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday that China hoped the new Japanese government would "take the right measures to … bring relations back on track".

But as Yamaguchi wrapped up his four-day visit, Tokyo said it would modify its national defence guidelines and vowed to enhance its ability to protect its sovereignty. Lin Xiaoguang , of the Central Party School, said: "China does not want Japan to send government vessels and military planes to the islands or engage in tough rhetoric. Beijing does not want to talk when Tokyo sticks to its old, tough approach."