Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday Japan will seek to build better relations with China and that the door for dialogue is always open, despite continued tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
"There is no doubt that the (Senkaku) islands are our territory in terms of history and international law. We are effectively in control of the islands," Abe told a press conference in Buenos Aires after Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
But Abe also acknowledged that relations with China are important. "From a broader perspective, we would like to pursue dialogue based on a mutually beneficial relationship," he said.
The two countries have been at odds over the sovereignty of the Japanese-administered uninhabited Senkakus, with Japan's purchase last year of some of the islands apparently depriving them of a summit meeting. China also claims the islets and calls them the Diaoyu.
Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked for about five minutes Thursday on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia, but Beijing said its diplomatic stance on Japan remains unchanged. He also had a brief chat with South Korean President Park Geun Hye on the same day.
On relations with South Korea, another Asian neighbor that Tokyo has issues with over territory and history, Abe expressed willingness to boost cooperation through a series of exchanges.
"Basically we share the same interests. Although there are difficult challenges, we'd like to continue our communications and build a cooperative relationship," Abe said.
South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean remain at issue between Tokyo and Seoul.
In Buenos Aires on Saturday, the International Olympic Committee picked Tokyo as the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics, an outcome that Japan hopes will help revive the economy mired in deflation and still reeling from the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The recent revelation of radioactive water seeping into the Pacific Ocean at the nuclear power plant raised concerns both at home and abroad.
"We will reduce our dependence on nuclear power generation. In the next three years or so, we will promote renewable energy, and encourage energy-saving at the same time," Abe said at the press conference.
At home, the prime minister will have to make a final decision on whether Japan will go ahead with a planned hike in the sales tax next April, after the government heard opinions about its likely impact on the economy from experts.
"There is no change in my position that I will make a judgment in the fall after evaluating the economic situation," he said.