CHINA / National

Japan, China to hold talks on disputed gas deposits
Updated: 2006-05-09 11:28

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 minister-level talks.

"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, Qatar.

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.