Japan will not easily give in to Chinese conditions for holding a summit but the two nations are moving toward restoring their ties damaged by a territorial row, Tokyo's top spokesman said Monday.
"We will not compromise where we cannot, and it is natural we will keep standing firm," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.
China has demanded that Tokyo acknowledge that a territorial dispute exists over a group of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea as a condition for holding summit talks, according to bilateral relations sources.
But Suga also said Japan will continue to seek a "strategic, mutually beneficial relationship" with China, and that the countries "are getting closer to each other" while arranging contacts between working-level officials.
Japan maintains no dispute exists over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, claimed by China as Diaoyu, and has rejected the Chinese demand, according to the sources.
No Sino-Japanese summit has been held for months, and talks have been suspended on an official agreement to build a "maritime liaison mechanism" to avoid an accidental clash.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wants talks with Chinese leaders but declined to reveal what conditions China has presented for the two Asian powers to resume leader-level dialogue.
"If there are issues to be solved, then it is the right diplomacy that we should meet and hold talks," Abe told reporters, adding, "We should not make any conditions for such meetings."
China has protested against Japan's move last September to put under state control most of the islands in the Senkaku group.