China says still keen to promote friendly ties with Japan

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said Tuesday his country's policy of promoting friendly relations with Japan "has not changed at all" during a meeting with a delegation of executives from top Japanese companies, one of the executives said.

During the meeting in Beijing, the Japan-China Economic Association submitted to Wang, one of the four deputy premiers in charge of commercial affairs, a set of proposals to facilitate greater business cooperation and rebuild mutual trust between Asia's two biggest economies.

One major point in the package was a request for an early resumption of high-level political dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing to mend soured bilateral relations.

The meeting comes amid signs that economic relations, hit hard by a bitter territorial dispute, have been gradually recovering in recent months.

Wang told the delegation, led by Fujio Cho, honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., that the Japanese government should face history squarely, but the overall atmosphere of the meeting that lasted for about an hour was warm and he did not directly touch on the territorial spat, according to the executive.

The delegation and Wang agreed that Japan and China should increase economic exchanges, despite the current difficulties facing the two countries, the executive said.

The delegation of more than 100 executives of major Japanese companies is the biggest business mission to travel between the two countries since their ties severely deteriorated more than a year ago following a flare-up over a group of small islands over which Tokyo and Beijing each assert ownership.

The delegation, which arrived in Beijing on Monday, was initially seeking to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping or Premier Li Keqiang, while staying in the capital through Thursday.

There have been no official meetings between top political leaders of the two countries since bilateral ties sank to their lowest point in years after the Japanese government purchased most of the Senkaku Islands from a private Japanese owner in September 2012 and put them under state control.

China steadfastly maintains its claims to the Japan-controlled islands in the East China Sea, which it calls Diaoyu.

China has insisted that Japan must drop its stance that no territorial dispute exists between the two countries before there can be a meeting of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and its two top political leaders.