China-Japan talks 'positive'

Defence chiefs meet on the sidelines of a regional summit, as the two sides seek to mend strained diplomatic relations.

    The row was triggered by a collision in September between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese patrol boats [AFP]

    The defence ministers of Japan and China have met for the first time since a diplomatic dispute erupted last month over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain by Japanese authorities.

    The two officials "held a conversation" on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meeting on Monday in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

    Liang Guanglie, the Chinese defence minister, said talks with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimi Kitazawa, went very well and would be positive for bilateral relations.

    "The talks were very good," he said. Asked what impact his discussion with Toshimi would have on strained relations, he replied: "Of course it will be positive".

    Mending ties

    China broke off all high-level contact with Tokyo last month after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel collided with Japanese coast guard patrol ships in waters claimed by both sides.

    The row between Asia's two biggest economies was their worst in years and undermined recent efforts to improve relations marked by decades of mistrust stemming from Japan's 1930s invasion of China.

    The Chinese captain was released after more than two weeks and returned to China on September 25.

    With strained relations impacting their strong trade ties, the two countries are trying to mend fences. Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, and his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, held a brief meeting last week in Brussels on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit.

    Both spoke of the need to improve ties. They also spoke of high-level talks at an appropriate time.

    Kan said he agreed with Wen to "resume high-level political exchanges" suspended following the sea incident.

    But the leaders also reiterated claims to a disputed area in the East China Sea where the boat collision sparked the worst row between the two in years.

    The uninhabited islands, which China calls the Diaoyu and Japan the Senkaku islands, lie near potential oil and gas reserves. The islands are also claimed by Taiwan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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