On the eve of a visit to China, Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Japanese coalition partner New Komeito, said yesterday he would propose that military planes from both countries should not fly close to disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Yamaguchi said both countries should come up with measures to stop tensions from escalating.
Tensions continued to run high yesterday as three Chinese maritime surveillance vessels patrolled waters around the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan. Both sides have sent military planes there.
"It is important to stop the problem from expanding, and relieve the tensions," Yamaguchi told Phoenix TV.
He said he would propose setting up a bilateral maritime communication mechanism during his visit to China. He will also deliver a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and said he hoped to meet new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping .
"Japan and China should resume communication, and hold top leaders' dialogue to improve relations," he said.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo after the three Chinese surveillance vessels were spotted. The Chinese vessels monitored Japanese ships in waters around the island, demanding their immediate departure from Chinese waters and declaring China's sovereignty, state-run Xinhua reported.
Repeating harsh remarks for a second day, Beijing rebuked US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday for saying the islands were under Japan's administration. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China resolutely opposed Clinton's remarks and called on the United States to take a "responsible attitude". Xinhua had issued a similar statement by Hong on Sunday.
The official People's Daily said that meddling in the dispute would undermine US interests. "The US should not be trapped by Japan, and jeopardise Sino-US relationships," it said.
Professor Lin Xiaoguang , an international relations specialist at the Central Party School, said Sino-Japanese tensions would likely continue.
He said China might still send military planes to the islands. "Japan sent military planes first, and Beijing will probably ask Japan to stop first," he said.
Professor Da Zhigang , from the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing would adopt a "wait and see" attitude before halting the dispatch of military planes.
"Beijing will see if Tokyo continues with its tough approach after Yamaguchi is home, and what Abe will do on his trip to Washington next month."