China, Japan move to cool down territorial dispute

Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:24am EST
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By Terril Yue Jones

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Japan sought to cool down tensions over a chafing territorial dispute on Friday, with Communist Party chief Xi Jinping telling an envoy from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he was committed to developing bilateral ties.

Xi will consider holding a summit meeting with Abe, Natsuo Yamaguchi, a senior lawmaker and head of the junior partner in Japan's ruling coalition, told reporters after his talks with the Chinese leader.

The meeting came as China took the dispute over a series of uninhabited islands to the United Nations.

It was not immediately clear if the U.N. involvement would increase the likelihood the row would be resolved peacefully. But launching an international legal process could reduce the temperature for now.

At China's request, the United Nations will, later this year, consider the scientific validity of a claim by Beijing that the islands, called the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku by Japan, are part of its territory. Japan says the world body should not be involved.

"The China government's policy to pay close attention to China-Japan relations has not changed," Xi told Yamaguchi at the meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry's website.

But he added: "The Japanese side ought to face up to history and reality, take practical steps and work hard with China to find an effective way to appropriately resolve and manage the issue via dialogue and consultations."

China's media have portrayed the territorial dispute as an emotional touchpoint for Chinese people that evokes memories of Japan's 1931-1945 occupation of parts of the mainland. Chinese textbooks, television and films are full of portrayals vilifying the Japanese.   Continued...

Natsuo Yamaguchi (L), leader of Japan's New Komeito party, delivers a personal letter from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China's president-in-waiting Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool