China claimed islands at the core of a row with Japan as its “sacred territory” in talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday, as neither side showed signs of backing down in a long-festering feud. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba urged China to exercise restraint at what he called a tense hour-long meeting over the dispute, which triggered violent anti-Japanese protests in China this month and is threatening ties between Asia’s two biggest economies, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated China’s “solemn position on the issue of Diaoyu Islands, which have been China’s sacred territory since ancient times”, Xinhua said. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo the two sides had agreed to keep talking. “There is no magic bullet in foreign diplomacy. We need to hold talks through various channels taking into account of broad perspective,” Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo. Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan’s central government bought the isolated East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking the anti-Japan protests across China. Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan’s central government bought the isolated East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking anti-Japan protests across China. China’s meetings with Japanese diplomats – at the United Nations and a day earlier in Beijing – suggest Beijing does not want the tensions over the island chain, believed to be in waters rich in natural gas deposits, to lead to a rupture in relations. But the unyielding tone of China’s published remarks suggests that the row is far from over. Beijing has repeatedly called the islands its “sacred territory since ancient times”. “The Japanese move is a gross violation of China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, an outright denial of the outcomes of victory of the world anti-fascist war and a grave challenge to the post-war international order,” said Yang, according to the Xinhua summary of his comments. Japan, which says the islands’ purchase was meant to fend off a more provocative bid by the nationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara to have his metropolitan government buy them, is trying to keep communications channels open. China postponed a ceremony marking the anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties with Japan, but an official at the Japan-China Economic Association said Toyota Motor chairman Fujio Cho and Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Japanese business lobby Keidanren, and other representatives of Japan-China friendship groups would attend an event on Thursday in Beijing. Patrol vessels from the two countries have also been playing a tense game of cat-and-mouse in the waters near the disputed islands, raising concerns that an unintended collision or other incident could escalate into a broader clash.