The territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea can only be managed but not resolved because of the complexities involved, a US diplomat said yesterday. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told in a seminar in Washington that the two countries should "step back from the brink", as Tokyo vowed to ease tensions with China. "There is recognition that certain problems are so challenging that they can only be managed. They may not be able to be solved," Campbell said. Tensions between China and Japan have been running high since the Japanese government announced a plan to buy three of the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands - known as the Senkakus in Japan - from a private owner. Four Chinese maritime surveillance ships and two fisheries patrol ships entered waters around the islands yesterday. Tokyo protested about the patrol, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said it was a normal activity. The State Oceanic Administration said the surveillance vessels monitored Japanese ships illegally entering the waters. Meanwhile, speaking a news conference in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appeared to set his sights on the next administration in Beijing for breaking the deadlock. Noda said that he hoped to start a dialogue through various channels with Vice-President Xi Jinping , who is expected to take the helm of the Communist Party later this month. Kyodo news agency quoted Noda as saying that he believed the new leadership would recognise the important relationship between the world's second- and third-largest economies, and that he would make efforts to cool down the dispute. Citing sources close to Sino-Japan relations, Kyodo reported that Beijing had set up a taskforce headed by Xi in September to steer its policies towards Japan. It said China has also formulated a strategy to seek periodic consultations with Japan on joint management of waters surrounding the islands. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing did not comment on the report, but mainland analysts said China would benefit from such talks because joint management would pave the way for China to step up its presence on the islands, currently controlled by Japan. "Joint management is an expedient tactic, but it builds a foundation for China to seek sovereignty over the islands," Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie said, adding that bilateral talks were needed, even though Beijing appeared to have the upper hand through economic measures taken against Tokyo. "Eventually, the economic measures will affect our economy, which is on a downward trend," Li said. "We have a leadership transition going on, and a stable environment is needed." A confidential report submitted to the US Secretary of State by a delegation of former US officials, including former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, warned this week that the territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing could spin out of control because of poor communication and serious misunderstanding, Bloomberg reported.