Beijing will place its frayed ties with Tokyo front and centre at its next summit with US officials in an attempt to get Washington to rein in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leading Chinese policy advisers said.
Chinese strategists hope to exploit the United States' frustration over Abe's decision to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine last month, a move which drew a rare public rebuke of Tokyo from Washington.
"Japan is becoming a key factor influencing the Sino-US relationship," said Jin Canrong , an international relations professor at Renmin University, who advises the government. "Even if Japan has stopped taking further actions that are provocative to its neighbours, it can still have an impact on Sino-US relationship because the US may exert pressure on China not to take steps that can raise tensions."
A date for the next strategic dialogue between China and the US has not been announced.
The relationship between Beijing and Tokyo has been deteriorating ever since the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands from their private Japanese owners in 2012.
US officials are now seeking assurances from Abe that he will forego future visits to the shrine, which honours 14 class-A war criminal among 2.5 million Japanese war dead, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Abe told Japanese lawmakers yesterday that the dispute showed the need for a high-level dialogue, but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Japan needed to show sincerity about improving ties.
Jia Xiudong , a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said Japan would become a top issue between Beijing and Washington because the rising tensions had complicated US plans to counter China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Shi Yinhong , another government adviser on international relations from Renmin University, said the US was already embroiled in the Sino-Japanese row after the shrine visit.
"If there was military conflict between China and Japan, the US would be very embarrassed because, as an alliance, it has the obligation to protect Japan," Shi said. "For China, the US is still a very influential actor in exerting pressure on Japan."
Meanwhile, the top US commander in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, expressed concern that he has no direct line to his counterpart in the People's Liberation Army in the case of a regional crisis.
"I don't have the ability to pick up a phone and talk directly to a PLA Navy admiral or general at the time of a crisis," Locklear said.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse