Japan's ambassador to China yesterday said he hoped for an early thaw in frosty Sino-Japanese ties, which had been plagued by a territorial dispute in the East China Sea.
Masato Kitera's remarks came in his first media reception after taking up the post in December. Tokyo plans to send defence officials to China today to discuss the row over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, Kyodo News reported.
However, Chinese foreign spokesman Hua Chunying yesterday said "provocative actions" would not sway it from defending its territory, after Japan confirmed it would conduct military drills with the US.
Sino-Japanese ties have deteriorated since September, when Tokyo bought three of the islands, triggering a furious response from Beijing, which described the purchase as a "farce".
Kitera said he hoped to use every sector in Japan to improve ties with China. "Exchanges between every sector of the two nations are very important, especially now as the relationship between Japan and China is in a difficult situation," Kitera said. "I hope the relationship between the two nations will be like a warm spring, and I hope this can come as soon as possible."
Both nations stepped up patrols around the islands in the past month. On Tuesday, Beijing sent eight maritime surveillance vessels, triggering a protest from Tokyo.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday that he felt "regret" about China's move and would not soften his stance on his cabinet members visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which critics say glorifies Japan's wartime past.