CHINA / National

China, Japan agree to hold talks on gas
By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-05-10 05:52

Beijing and Tokyo have agreed to hold talks later this month on natural gas exploration in the East China Sea and work to set up a meeting between their foreign ministers at multilateral forums soon in an attempt to thaw their icy relations.

The agreement was reached yesterday, the third and final day of a Sino-Japanese strategic dialogue in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo (L) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi before their talks at the Iikura House in Tokyo February 10, 2006.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo (L) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi before their talks at the Iikura House in Tokyo in this February 10, 2006 photo. [Reuters] 

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and his Japanese counterpart, Shotaro Yachi, headed the two delegations.

During the talks, Dai reiterated President Hu Jintao's remarks on Sino-Japanese relations made in a meeting with the heads of seven friendship organizations on March 31, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said yesterday at a regularly-scheduled press conference in Beijing.

The crux of the problematic ties between the two countries is that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insists on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of the country's past militarism, which has hurt the feelings of Chinese people and damaged the political foundation of Sino-Japanese relations, Hu told his Japanese guests.

"China hopes the two countries can work together to remove the political barriers in the way of improving and developing bilateral ties," Dai was quoted as saying.

Since October 2004, China and Japan have convened four rounds of consultations on the East China Sea issues, the last taking place in Beijing in March.

Beijing says it has rights to the gas but Tokyo claims the two countries should share them. Meetings aimed at resolving the dispute have ended in disagreement.

Ties between China and Japan have become increasingly strained because of the gas dispute and, particularly, Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war criminals of World War II.

China has refused any high-level meeting with Japan for months over the shrine visits, and there has been no full-fledged summit between Koizumi and a Chinese leader since 2001.

Japanese media reported on Monday that Tokyo had proposed to Beijing a meeting between the two foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Asia Co-operation Dialogue, scheduled for May 23-24 in Doha, Qatar. But Liu said the meeting depends on further consultations.

Also yesterday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said in Tokyo that the key to mending relations lies in efforts to resolving the differences in how the two countries perceive history.

"We would be able to overcome a major obstacle if the appropriate steps were taken with regard to the historical issues," Wang said at a lecture hosted by the Asian Affairs Research Council.

"This would certainly be an advantage in resolving various other issues and lead to better Sino-Japanese ties."

Wang hopes a meeting between the two countries' leaders could materialize and urged both nations to do their parts in this regard.

"It is necessary to have dialogue," he said. "But both sides need to create an environment conducive for such a meeting to take place."

(China Daily 05/10/2006 page1)


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