China and Japan have agreed to resume talks next week on their rival East China Sea claims while a meeting between their foreign ministers is also possible, the two sides said yesterday.
The developments came during a series of meetings this week between their vice foreign ministers in Beijing and the southwestern Chinese city of Guiyang, said Masaru Okada, an official in the Japanese embassy's political section.
Okada said the vice foreign ministers -- Shotaro Yachi of Japan and China's Dai Bingguo (
China's foreign ministry, in comments carried on the official Xinhua news agency, confirmed the next round would be held this month, but did specify when or where.
The fourth round of the talks was held in Beijing in March but no major progress was made.
Japan's team had also been pushing this week for a meeting soon of their foreign ministers, an encounter China has been reluctant to agree to amid anger over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a war shrine.
"Both sides have agreed to try to find a date to meet," Okada said in reference to a possible meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (
However he emphasized that the Chinese side had agreed only to look for a date, and that a definite meeting had not yet been confirmed.
Xinhua published similar comments from China's foreign ministry.
"The two vice foreign ministers also discussed the possibility of setting up a meeting between their foreign ministers in the near future at multilateral occasions," Xinhua said.
The Japanese delegation had suggested a possible meeting between Li and Aso on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue to be held in Qatar on May 23 and 24, according to Okada.
China suspended top-level bilateral meetings with Japan in October last year over Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 top war criminals among 2.5 million war dead.
China and South Korea say that the shrine visits prove Japan has not truly repented for its wartime atrocities. Koizumi insists that he visits the shrine for personal reasons.
The territorial dispute in the East China Sea, where the two countries' 370km exclusive economic zones overlap, is another long-running saga that also continues to drag down relations.