The government dispatched Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki to Beijing on Monday for two days of talks aimed at easing tensions being caused by the Senkaku Islands dispute.
Saiki is scheduled to meet with his counterpart, Zhang Yesui. The two may exchange views on the timing for a potential summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, sources said.
China has said there will be no summit as long as Japan refuses to officially admit the existence of the territorial dispute involving the Senkakus. Japan argues the summit should be held without preconditions.
Japan put the uninhabited isles in the East China Sea under state control last September, despite fierce criticism from China.
“A summit is not in sight yet,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference. “Both Japan and China are responsible for contributing to world peace and prosperity, so we should have frank discussions.”
Another Japanese official said: “We stand firm in our stance of not recognizing a territorial dispute, but we believe it’s possible for the two countries to avert a crisis through dialogue.”
Saiki hopes to confirm that the two countries will calmly address the row. The Senkakus are claimed as Diaoyu by China and as Tiaoyutai by Taiwan.
The nominal purpose of his visit is to pay courtesy calls on senior Chinese officials as the new vice foreign minister. Saiki assumed the post in late June.