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Prime Minister Naoto Kan headed off Sunday on a three-day trip to Brussels to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting, hoping to mend damaged ties with China and explain Tokyo’s stance on the spat to other world leaders.

Kan will join the ASEM summit’s working dinner session Monday evening to discuss economic issues, including ways to ensure sustainable growth and rebalance the global economy and banking rules.

Before the opening of the two-day summit, Kan is expected to hold talks Monday with several leaders, including South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, Japanese officials said.

Kan is expected to seek support in bilateral meetings for Tokyo’s position in its row with Beijing over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain who was accused of causing his boat to collide with Japan Coast Guard vessels early last month near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The uninhabited islets are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Although no bilateral talks between Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are set to be held on the sidelines of the ASEM summit, Kan is expected to explore the possibility of making brief contact with Wen in an attempt to calm bilateral tensions.

Kan plans to refer to the high seas incident in his speech at the summit as well as in his meetings with Lee and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Just before leaving for Brussels, Kan said he would brief world leaders about Japan’s stance on the diplomatic row and said he had no talks scheduled with Wen.

“It is necessary to thoroughly explain the stance of our country,” in bilateral talks with other leaders at the meeting, he told reporters.

‘Bad neighbor’ talk

SAITAMA (Kyodo) The recent dispute between Japan and China provided an opportunity for the people to think anew about how they should associate with the country’s “bad neighbor,” said Yukio Edano, deputy secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

In a Saturday speech in the city of Saitama, the DPJ exec said it would be “wrong” for Japan to expect the two countries can build “relations of trust” in light of Beijing’s attitudes toward “the principle of the rule of law and human rights.”

Edano was referring to China’s retaliation over Japan’s arrest of a Chinese trawler skipper last month near the Senkaku islets.

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