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China calls on Japan to resolve dispute through consultations

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

10:25, January 19, 2013

Beijing on Friday played down the possibility of a conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, urging Tokyo to show restraint and solve problems through talks.

"We hope the Japanese side can exercise sincerity with calmness, work for shared goals with China, and thus find ways to properly solve and manage problems through consultations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a regular news briefing.

Hong made the remarks in a response to confrontations between both sides' ships and planes around the waters off the islands, which have belonged to China for centuries but were illegally "nationalized" by Tokyo last year.

The spokesman accused Tokyo of creating tensions by highlighting military implications even as the two sides have "maintained contact on the issue".

Japan has behaved badly on the islands issue and organized its Self-Defense Force planes to interrupt Chinese planes' normal flights, he said.

Tokyo also sent its fighters to follow Chinese civilian aircraft and reportedly plans to fire warning shots at Chinese planes there.

"Such moves, which highlight military implications and create tensions, go against the trend that all the nations in the region should peacefully solve conflicts through talks," Hong said.

Experts said a flurry of meetings between Japanese envoys — from both the ruling and opposition parties — and senior Chinese leaders could help to ease the tension, but the hawkish stance of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is unlikely to change.

Tokyo continues to intervene militarily as it seeks more bargaining chips for future talks, they added.

This week, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Fu Ying met Kenji Kosaka, former Japanese minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, from the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama from the opposition party visited China and met Jia Qinglin, head of China's top political advisory body.

New Komeito Party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi is going to start a four-day visit to China on Tuesday. Yamaguchi's party is part of Japan's coalition government.

Feng Wei, an expert on Japanese studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Yamaguchi's visit has more meaning than Hatoyama's private one.

"Despite its close relationship with the ruling party, the New Komeito Party maintains a friendly relationship with China and opposes revising the pacifist constitution as proposed by Abe," Feng said.

Shen Shishun, an expert on Asia-Pacific studies at Haikou College of Economics in Hainan province, said these visits are sending messages that are different from the Japanese government: Japan does not necessarily have to stand against China all the time.

"Japan clearly knows that its economic recovery can hardly be achieved without trade with neighboring China. I believe the recent visits have also been partly pushed by some Japanese enterprises whose interests have been impaired by the disputes," he said.

But a breakthrough over the issue cannot be achieved soon unless a strong push can be made by the Abe administration, he added.

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