Beijing has cancelled an annual financial meeting with Japanese and South Korean officials set for next week, amid strained relations over the Diaoyu Islands sovereignty dispute.
The decision came shortly after Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister, Akihiro Ota, said his planned trip to China next week would not go ahead.
The cancellation highlights China's unwillingness to hold high- or ministerial-level dialogue with Japan, even as both sides attempt to maintain contact at lower levels. The chief of Japan's defence ministry policy bureau, Hideshi Tokuchi, in Beijing for talks on maritime affairs last night.
"The defence talks are only symbolic to show that both nations can still hold some kind of talks," said Professor Yang Bojiang from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
Japan's Finance Ministry said yesterday that the meeting, which was to happen on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in New Delhi on Friday, had been called off by China, which was serving as chair of the trilateral meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors this year.
The meeting was scrapped because "there were no issues that needed to be discussed by the three countries", Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted a Japanese official as saying.
In another incident revealing tensions, Ota said yesterday that his three-day trip to China, due to start on Thursday, had been cancelled because of a "co-ordination" problem.
Sino-Japanese ties have been deteriorating since September, when the Japanese government announced it was buying three of the five uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are known in Japan as the Senkakus. Tensions escalated further this week when almost 170 Japanese lawmakers visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan's wartime past, and both nations sent ships to waters around the disputed islands.
Da Zhigang , a Japanese affairs expert at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the maritime communication mechanism could prevent military confrontation.
"But there won't be any significant outcome because neither side will concede much regarding territorial rights."