A senior Foreign Ministry official said Monday that Japan and China are unlikely to hold a summit on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe meeting in Hanoi later this week.

Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi said “it seems difficult to hold Japan-China summit talks due to schedule constraints.” He did not elaborate.

The two countries failed to arrange talks between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Premier Wen Jiabao — possibly as a result of soured political relations over Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

Foreign Ministry sources had stated earlier that the two countries were trying to arrange talks on the sidelines of the three-day summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, which begins Thursday.

Takeuchi added that Japan will continue trying to arrange bilateral summits with China on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile in early November and a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and South Korea in late November in Laos.

According to ministry insiders, Beijing said it wants to “place priority on meeting other leaders” at the ASEM meeting, given that there will be other opportunities for the Japan-China summit to be held later in the year.

China was referring to a one-on-one meeting between Koizumi and Wen or tripartite talks involving South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun on the sidelines of the so-called ASEAN-plus-three meeting, the sources said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to attend the APEC summit, while Wen plans to attend the ASEAN-plus-three meeting in Laos.

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