Beijing rejected Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s overture to meet Friday in Hanoi with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, because Japan had “ruined the atmosphere” for any talks, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported, citing No. 2 diplomat Hu Zhengyue.
Japan had tried hard to arrange the meeting in Hanoi on the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea, held to discuss regional issues. Kan had wanted to ease recently strained bilateral relations.
Hu suggested Friday that Japan “made untrue statements” about the contents of a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Tokyo counterpart, Seiji Maehara, held earlier in the day in Hanoi, Xinhua reported.
In a separate Xinhua report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted as blasting as unacceptable U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks that the Japan-controlled Senkaku islands, which China claims, fall within the scope of the U.S.-Japan security treaty.
Jiechi and Maehara met earlier Friday in an attempt to repair relations soured initially by a September run-in involving a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard boats near the Senkaku islets, with Japan requesting that a freeze on China’s rare earth exports that has hampered its manufacturing sector be lifted.
Yang and Maehara held private talks on the sidelines of the regional summit, hoping to lay the foundation for a meeting between Wen and Kan.
“The discussion took place in a good atmosphere. It was held calmly while both sides said what we should say. I believe it is likely that the leaders of China and Japan will hold a meeting here in Hanoi,” Maehara told reporters earlier after the hour-plus talks in Vietnam’s capital.
The two countries have sought to repair ties brought to a new low after the trawler collided with the JCG patrol boats near the uninhabited, Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea.
Tensions have remained high following a tit-for-tat exchange of arrests after Japan released the boat captain following a brief with reciprocal protests flaring up in Japan but especially across China.
Japan asked China to unblock shipments of rare earth metals and reopen talks on joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea, Maehara said.
Maehara said Japan “repeated its position firmly” regarding the Senkakus. Tokyo’s position is that no territorial dispute exists because the islets are part of Japan.