Japan said Tuesday it will hold talks next week with China on undersea gas
fields claimed by both in the East China Sea, one of several disputes that have
sent their relations to the worst level in decades.
Japan's Chief Government Secretary Shinzo Abe said the talks are planned for
"the week of May 15," but did not specify the dates or venue.
"I understand Japan and China have reached an agreement to hold the fifth
round of Japan-China dialogue on the East China Sea involving undersea gas
deposits next week," Abe told a news conference.
Japan's economy and trade minister Toshihiro Nikai said the talks will be
held in Japan, "most likely in Tokyo," and would be attended by National
Resources and Energy Agency chief Nobuyori Kodaira and Kenichiro Sasae, head of
the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asia-Oceania Bureau.
Nikai did not mention Chinese attendants.
Ties between the two Asian neighbors have plunged to their worst in decades
over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a Tokyo war shrine linked to
Japan's militarism, Japanese history textbooks and other territorial issues.
Beijing has rejected Tokyo's proposals for minister level talks since
Koizumi's last shrine visit in October. But recently, there are signs for a
possible such high-level talks.
On Tuesday, Abe said the two countries are also discussing to arrange foreign
"Japan and China have agreed to achieve foreign minister-level talks at an
early date and currently trying to arrange details," he said.
Japanese media reported Monday that Japan proposed to China a meeting between
Foreign Minister Taro Aso and his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, on the
sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, scheduled for May 23-24 in Doha,
Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi, currently in China for
talks with his counterpart Dai Bingguo, on bilateral conflicts and regional
issues, reportedly made the proposal Sunday.