Chinese and Japanese leaders have held brief fence-mending talks in Brussels, vowing to rebuild ties after the worst diplomatic crisis in years between Asia’s biggest economies.
The meeting between Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit broke the ice after nearly a month of sparring that began with a maritime incident in contested waters.
Tokyo’s arrest on September 8 of a Chinese trawler captain whose ship collided with two Japanese patrol vessels near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea had led Beijing to cut off all high-level contacts until yesterday.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency says Kan and Wen agreed that the deterioration in bilateral ties was not desirable and have decided to hold high-level bilateral talks on a regular basis.
“There was an encounter after dinner” in Brussels, Noriyuki Shikata, Japanese deputy cabinet secretary for public relations, told AFP.
“They agreed to improve relations, to resume exploring ties.”
China’s foreign ministry confirmed the meeting, on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting of leaders from 46 nations, and said the two sides had agreed to “hold a high-level China-Japan meeting at a suitable time”.
“Wen pointed out that it serves the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples to protect and advance the China-Japan strategic relationship, which is of mutual benefit,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Kan and Wen agreed that “deterioration in bilateral ties over maritime collisions is not desirable” and decided to “hold high-level bilateral talks on a regular basis.”
But both men reiterated their countries’ claims to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Taiwan also claims the islets, which lie in rich fishing grounds and are believed to contain oil and gas deposits.