Japan is asking China for a meeting among their foreign ministers at a regional conference later this month to improve chilled relations between the two countries, Japanese news reports said yesterday.
Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi made the proposal during talks on Sunday in China with his Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo (戴秉國), major newspapers including Mainichi Shimbun reported. Yachi is in China for three days of working-level talks.
"The two sides exchanged ideas on current China-Japan relations and issues of common concern," Japan's Kyodo news agency said in a one-line statement.
The talks were continuing yesterday in southwestern Guizhou, Dai's home province.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso hopes to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), in Qatar if Li also travels there for the Asia Cooperation Dialogue scheduled for May 23-24, the Mainichi quoted Yachi as saying on Sunday.
Ties between Japan and China have plunged to their worst in decades because of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine linked to Japanese militarism, as well as squabbles over history textbooks and territorial issues.
Yachi said he planned to discuss regional and international issues, including ways to revive the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, during his talks with Dai, Kyodo said.
Foreign Ministry officials refused to confirm the reports, saying no details could be disclosed during the continuing bilateral talks.
The Asia Cooperation Dialogue is a forum among 26 members to promote economic cooperation in Asia.
If the Aso-Li meeting materialized, it would be the first between the two countries' foreign ministers since last May, when they met on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Kyoto, western Japan.
Meanwhile, Koizumi is seriously considering visiting the Yasu-kuni shrine on an upcoming sensitive war anniversary, a report said yesterday.
Koizumi is weighing the effects of going to the shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender to US-led Allied forces in 1945, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.