Senior Japanese and Chinese diplomats have met to discuss a dispute over East China Sea islets that both countries and Taiwan claim, the Japanese government said yesterday, underscoring a willingness to talk, despite a sharp deterioration in ties.
Sino-Japanese relations took a dive after the Japanese government bought three of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台列嶼), called the Senkaku in Japan, from a private Japanese owner last month, triggering violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products across China.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura confirmed the talks between Tokyo and Beijing after domestic media reported that Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai secretly met with senior Chinese officials, probably including his counterpart, Chinese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), in Shanghai last week to discuss the dispute.
“I am aware of the reports. That was part of the communications going on between Japan and China, in various forms and at various levels,” Fujimura told a regular press conference, without elaborating. “It just shows we are in constant contact at many levels.”
Following Japan’s purchase of the islands, China sent fishery patrol and marine surveillance vessels to waters near the islets, raising concerns that a confrontation with Japanese patrol ships could escalate into a broader conflict.
The row with China, the world’s second-largest economy and Japan’s largest trading partner, has prompted the Bank of Japan to cut its outlook for economies in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has described the nation’s security environment as tougher than ever.