Japan calls for foreign ministerial talks with China

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed willingness to hold talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to lay the groundwork for a summit between the two countries, as bilateral relations remain strained over territorial and historical issues.

Referring to a meeting Monday in Beijing between a senior Japanese ruling party lawmaker and China's third-ranking leader, Kishida said, "We need such a dialogue at a foreign ministers' level as well. I would like to make efforts to that end."

Kishida made the comments in an interview with Kyodo News on Tuesday in Paris, held on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In Monday's talks with Zhang Dejiang, the third-ranking leader of the Communist Party of China after President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Masahiko Komura, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party, proposed a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum slated for November in Beijing.

As a precondition for high-level talks, Beijing is calling for Tokyo's compromise over the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, and over Japan's perception of history.

Kishida described that position as an impediment to talks.

"If (China) keeps insisting it will not accept (Japan's calls for talks) unless (Japan's position) matches its own position, it will never lead to dialogue," Kishida said, urging Beijing to reconsider its stance.

Alluding to the talks between Komura and Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Kishida said, "We would like to turn such efforts (at a parliament level) into intergovernmental dialogue."

Zhang told Komura, a former foreign minister, that he will relay Abe's readiness for a bilateral summit to Xi, but he blamed Japan for the soured relations between the two countries.

Since Abe returned to power in December 2012, the two countries have not held a summit nor a foreign ministers' meeting amid Beijing's growing assertiveness over the Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, and its criticism over Abe's visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo in December.