• Kyodo

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China’s information minister called Tuesday on Japan not to interfere in territorial disputes in the South China Sea but also stressed the need to promote bilateral ties.

“There are people who make a fuss about it, although it originally is not Japan’s problem. This causes a new problem,” Jiang Jianguo, minister of China’s State Council Information Office, told a forum in Tokyo attended by representatives of the two countries’ business and political circles.

Jiang also pointed to the importance of promoting bilateral ties, saying that developing the relationship “matters for the stability and peace of Asia and the world.”

China maintains that its territorial disputes with other claimants over the South China Sea should be resolved bilaterally, not multilaterally, and without the interference of nonclaimants such as the United States and Japan.

Japan, which sees the South China Sea as a vital sea lane for its oil and natural gas imports, has repeatedly voiced concerns about China’s construction of outposts in the waters and use of them for military purposes, which is broadly seen as a way to assert its territorial claims and maritime rights.

Also during the symposium, which was co-organized by the think tank Genron NPO, former top Chinese diplomat Tang Jiaxuan similarly expressed dissatisfaction with Japan’s stance over the South China Sea issue.

“Intentionally taking up the (South China Sea) issue or intervening and interfering in various ways only complicate the problem. I hope the Japanese side will support efforts by direct parties to the dispute to resolve the issue peacefully,” said the former state councilor and foreign minister, who now heads the China-Japan Friendship Association.

But Tang stressed that it is important for Beijing and Tokyo “to expand mutual cooperation as the world’s second- and third-largest economies and fulfill responsibilities” for the sake of the stability of the international community.

Also attending the symposium, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said an envisioned summit between Japan, China and South Korea “would be a chance to improve the Japan-China relationship and put it back on track.”

The three-way summit, which Japanese sources say could be held in Japan in November or later, would be a fresh sign of a thaw in ties between the two neighbors.

In a keynote address at the forum, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called for more efforts by both sides to promote bilateral ties.

“I do not want the two countries to unnecessarily irritate each other and create a situation where the opponent needs to force countermeasures,” he said.

The forum has been held annually since 2005, even during a period when nearly all high-level government-to-government exchanges stopped due to tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and issues related to Japan’s wartime past.

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