Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and her Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan agreed Monday to work together to improve soured bilateral relations, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Their talks, conducted over the telephone, were the first direct official contact between the two countries since Tanaka took office late last month.

Referring to Japan’s issuance of an entry visa for former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, Tanaka said Japan’s stance to support one China as declared in the 1972 joint declaration has not changed.

Japan does not support Taiwan’s independence and will take a “cautious stance” in dealing with Taiwan, Tanaka was quoted as saying. Tang, meanwhile, said China “regrets” that bilateral relations have deteriorated because of the visa issue and Japan’s approval of a history textbook that Beijing, as well as other Asian nations, accuse of glossing over Japan’s wartime atrocities.

However, he said that China’s basic stance to develop friendly relations with Japan has not changed and that China hopes Japan makes efforts to bring bilateral ties back to a “normal path,” according to the official.

Tanaka, who accompanied her father, late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, to China in 1972 when Japan normalized relations with Beijing, has had close ties with Chinese officials including Tang for the past 30 years.

The two will hold bilateral talks in Beijing later this month when Tanaka visits to attend an Asia-Europe Meeting of foreign ministers, the official said.

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