Jul 31, 2013

    China rebuffs Japan talk of summit

    BEIJING on Monday ruled out the possibility of an upcoming leaders' summit with Tokyo, urging the Japanese government to take concrete measures to improve strained ties rather than brandishing "empty slogans".

    The message from a government official, who declined to be named, comes after Mr Isao Iijima, a close adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said on Sunday that Mr Abe could hold a summit with President Xi Jinping in the "not-too-distant future".

    Mr Iijima said his assumption is based on his four-day visit to Beijing in the middle of this month, during which he met "several prominent figures" close to Mr Xi, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported.

    The hawkish Abe, who cemented his grip on power in an Upper House election last week, called last Friday for an unconditional meeting between Japanese and Chinese leaders.

    While Mr Abe's call last week drew a cool reaction from Beijing, Mr Iijima said Chinese leaders were considering the call and he believed they would respond positively.

    "I feel they are troubled by it, they are deeply thinking about it," he told reporters when asked about the summit call.

    "I don't think it will take that long (before they meet)," he said on the sidelines of a speech in his hometown in central Japan.

    But the Chinese official said that Mr Iijima did not meet any Chinese government officials.

    "What Iijima told reporters on Sunday is not true and is fabricated, based on the needs of Japan's domestic politics," he said.

    According to the official, Mr Iijima's visit to China was mainly to discuss his tour of North Korea, and there was no consultation between the two sides on a leaders' meeting.

    The two countries are in a bitter row over a string of islands in the resource-rich East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. But Japan does not admit there is a dispute, and claims the islands as "inherently" its own.

    Experts say the key sticking point to a Sino-Japanese summit is whether the two sides can find a way to set aside the row to calm the situation and focus on other aspects of relations between the world's second- and third-biggest economies.

    China wants Japan to first acknowledge that a formal dispute exists, a step that Tokyo has rejected for fear it would undermine its claim to sovereignty of the isles.

    China's Foreign Ministry responded to Mr Abe's overture by saying its door was always open for talks but that the problem lay in Japan's attitude.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told China Daily on Monday that Japan should "stop using empty slogans about so-called dialogue to gloss over disagreements".

    Despite the rebuff from China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin met Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

    "The two sides will continue to communicate through various channels and at various levels," the ministry said.