Japan would seek a bilateral summit between its prime minister and China's new leaders as early as May as part of efforts to defuse a continuing diplomatic row over disputed islands, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said yesterday.
Kishida said the meeting could be possible on the sidelines of the annual trilateral summit with China and South Korea, which usually takes place in May.
"As for a Japan-China summit meeting, we recognise the importance of communication between national leaders," Kishida said. "We have a three-way meeting with China and South Korea at around May every year … We will seek an opportunity of dialogue at such occasions." But he admitted the details of this year's summit, to be hosted by South Korea, had yet to be finalised.
Kishida said China's recent maritime activities and opaque military build-ups were major regional threats, which emphasised his earlier claims that there is no territorial issue to be resolved concerning the Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea and that it is essential to strengthen Japan's alliance with the US.
Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had no summit meetings with Chinese leaders since he took power in December amid a diplomatic row over the islands, known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyus.
A report on Friday said Abe would send Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to Beijing next month in what would be the first high-level meeting of the Asian powers' new governments.
Japan's Sankei Shimbun daily said on Friday that Aso planned to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang . But a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, later said the media reports were not accurate.
During a meeting with Japanese businessmen on Friday, Vice-President Li Yuanchao , while being described by Japanese media as striking a softer tone, said Sino-Japanese relations were in an unprecedented "confusing" state and both sides would suffer if this continued.
Additional reporting by Keith Zhai