Japan hopes for 'informal' talks with China at Asean

Kishida hopes to meet Chinese counterpart in Brunei despite simmering tensions over islands

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 5:12am

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says he hopes for an informal meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during next week's Asean ministerial meeting in Brunei, Japanese media reported yesterday.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by a territorial dispute in the East China Sea, and Japanese media reported this week that Wang and Kishida would not hold any formal meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting.

Quoting Japanese government sources, Kyodo news agency reported that Kishida was arranging for an informal conversation with Wang in Brunei. Earlier, Kishida said there were no plans for a one-on-one meeting, but "our country has always kept the door open for dialogue".

If the two do meet, it would be the highest-level bilateral contact since September, when the Japanese government's bought three disputed islands in a chain known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, inflaming tensions.

Analysts said there were few signs suggesting that a formal meeting between senior officials would take place any time soon.

"There should be a change of the atmospherics in the Sino-Japanese relationship if the two want to hold talks but, as of now, there is no sign the two countries are trying to make amends and heal the relationship," said Yang Bojiang , director of Japanese Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Professor Barry Sautman, associate director of the Centre on China's Transnational Relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said both countries' leaders had to take account of domestic sentiment.

"There is little room for negotiation because the Japanese administration is quite antagonistic regarding a lot of issues, the Diaoyus being the most prominent," he said.

The Asean meeting begins with a gathering of the 10-member Asean bloc tomorrow, expanding on Monday to include China, Japan and South Korea, before an East Asia summit.

Additional reporting by Keith Zhai and Agence France-Presse