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Top Chinese official secretly visited Japan for Senkaku talks

JIJI

A top Chinese official secretly visited Japan earlier this month to hold talks with senior Japanese counterparts over how best to address simmering tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Chinese government sources said Tuesday.

The Chinese official is in charge of Japan-China relations at the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs. Officials from both nations also discussed the groundwork for holding a bilateral summit meeting, the sources told Jiji Press.

The Chinese side rejected holding a Sino-Japanese meeting when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterparts, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, attended the East Asia Summit and other gatherings in Southeast Asia earlier this month.

Abe has repeatedly said the door remains open for dialogue.

China is willing to mend the bilateral relationship, a diplomatic source said. In late September, some 10 business leaders from the country visited Japan, while a meeting of Japanese and South Korean culture ministers was held in South Korea.

Beijing, however, has been frustrated with Abe’s hard-line stance toward China, a Chinese government source said.

No senior Chinese official has visited Japan since a trip by the chief of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs in October 2012, soon after Tokyo nationalized the Senkakus, which are located in Okinawa Prefecture. China claims the islands as its own.

From Japan, Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki and Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, visited China in late July and early August, respectively.