Oct 17, 2013

    China-Japan secret talks draw a blank

    A SENIOR Chinese government official has secretly visited Japan for talks aimed at improving bilateral relations damaged by an ongoing territorial row, reports said on Tuesday.

    The talks, involving a high-ranking official from the Chinese foreign ministry's Asian division, were thought to have been held early this month, Japanese news agency Jiji Press reported from Beijing, quoting Chinese government sources.

    A high-ranking official from the Japanese foreign ministry attended the meeting, the report said.

    A Japanese foreign-ministry official declined comment on the content of the report, saying: "Japan and China have been making various exchanges at various levels."

    During the trip, the Chinese official attempted to make progress towards summit talks between the two sides, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.

    But the talks failed to make any headway, the sources added, saying that it was uncertain if the officials would meet again.

    "At this moment, circumstances don't allow Japan and China room to approach one another for a summit. The two countries have a major gap in perceptions," Kyodo said, quoting an unnamed source.

    Tokyo-Beijing ties took a nosedive in September last year over the ownership of the Japan-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

    The row over the islands in the East China Sea has led to warnings of a possible armed confrontation.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe managed a brief encounter and shook the hand of Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Indonesia. But China rejected a formal sit-down meeting between them, due to the island dispute.

    Mr Abe has not held formal talks with Chinese and South Korean leaders since taking office in December. Tokyo also has a dispute with Seoul over a group of South Korea-controlled isles.