China is ready to discuss territorial claims in the East China Sea with Japan once Tokyo declares the islands are disputed, according to Beijing's senior diplomat.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi made his remarks about the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, in Washington on Friday.
Wang blamed Japan, which bought the islands from a private owner last year, for rising tensions between the two neighbours.
"The Diaoyus are an integral part of Chinese territory," Wang told an audience after he delivered a speech to the Brookings Institution think tank.
"Our position has not changed, and nor should it change. China has a firm determination to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"In spite of this, we are still ready to sit down in a dialogue with the Japanese to work out jointly a way to manage the current situation. But Japan needs first to recognise that there is such a dispute. The whole world knows there is."
Wang, who served as China's ambassador to Japan before he was appointed foreign minister, added: "I believe there will be a day when the Japanese will return to the table of dialogue."
In his speech, Wang returned to the idea of a "new model of major-country relationship" between China and the US, a theme raised by President Xi Jinping when he met US President Barack Obama in California in June.
China and the US "should genuinely respect and accommodate each other's concerns and interests" in the Asia-Pacific, Wang said. "We have never thought about pushing the US out of the region," he said. "Rather, we hope the US will play a positive role in safeguarding peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific."
Wang also expressed hope for progress on the Taiwan issue.
"If the US can go along with the prevailing trend of peaceful development of cross-straits relations and genuinely appreciate and respect China's efforts to oppose separation and achieve peaceful reunification, the issue - once a liability and negative factor in our relationship - will be turned into an asset and a positive factor," Wang said.
"Wang's remarks marked a sea change," said Qu Xing , president of the China Institute of International Studies.
"This is a new viewpoint never spoken of before," Qu said. "In the past, you could say that 80 per cent of the tension in the Sino-US relationship was over the Taiwan issue."
Wang also pushed for a resumption of six-party international talks over North Korea's nuclear programme, saying that Pyongyang was ready to recommit to the goal of denuclearisation. "Now that North Korea has said it will return to that goal, it's time for the parties to have serious dialogue on how we can achieve that," Wang said.
Qu said Wang had successfully turned the "new model of major-country relationship" into many practical issues, ranging from Asia-Pacific matters to the international problems like Syria.
"The atmosphere was friendly and the results should be fruitful," Qu said.