Japan's vice foreign minister sent to China to ease tensions

Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki arrived in Beijing on Monday for two days of talks aimed at easing tensions between the two countries over a territorial row.

Saiki is scheduled to meet with his counterpart Zhang Yesui, and the two may exchange views on the timing of a summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to sources close to bilateral relations.

Japan intends to "promote unconditional, frank dialogue between the foreign ministers and leaders" of the two countries, Abe told reporters in Miyagi Prefecture. "I have instructed Foreign Ministry officials to go that way."

The premier also reiterated the relationship between the neighbors in Asia is crucial, calling for efforts to improve the ties from the standpoint of pursuing a strategic, mutually beneficial partnership. "Japan always keeps windows for dialogue open," he added.

China has said there will be no summit talks as long as Japan refuses to admit the existence of the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, while Japan argues the summit should be held without preconditions.

Japan put the uninhabited islands under state control last September despite fierce criticism from China.

"A summit is not in sight yet," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, said during a press conference. "Both Japan and China are responsible for contributing to world peace and prosperity, so we should have frank discussions."

Another Japanese government official said, "We stand firm in our stance of not recognizing a territorial dispute, but we believe it's possible for the two countries to avert a crisis through dialogue."

Saiki hopes to confirm that the two countries will calmly address the row over the Senkakus, claimed as Diaoyu by China, in the East China Sea.

The nominal purpose of his visit is to pay courtesy calls on senior Chinese officials as Japan's new vice foreign minister. Saiki assumed the post in late June.