Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has decided he will attend an Asia-Europe summit next week, which opens the possibility of a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao. While no discussions have been arranged so far for the two men in Brussels, they would have many issues to discuss.
Chinese officials continue to demand that Japanese vessels stop shadowing two Chinese patrol boats in a disputed area of the East China Sea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says China has a right to keep the area safe.
"The waters off the Diaoyu islands have been a regular fishing area for Chinese fishermen," said Jiang Yu. "China sending fisheries ships to enforce the law is based on the relevant laws and regulations, and they carry out fishery administration activities to protect the fisheries' ecology and protect the safety of Chinese fishermen's lives and property. We hope that Japan will halt interfering with Chinese fisheries law enforcement vessels."
She also said Japan should take "concrete steps" to repair the relationship. China-Japan relations have hit a low point since Japan arrested a Chinese fishing boat captain earlier this month near the island chain known to China as Diaoyu, and to Japan as Senkaku.
Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seiji Maehara, maintains the islands are Japanese territory.
"There are no territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Senkaku islands are our own territory, and we will defend our sovereignty," said Seiji Maehara. "There should be no changes in our stance in that in the future."
Meanwhile Banri Kaieda, Japan's State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy, is calling for a quick improvement in ties with China by ending a ban on the export of specialized minerals.
"China's current de facto ban on rare earth metal exports, and I emphasize de facto, could cause great damage to Japan's economy," said Banri Kaieda.
China denies it has banned the export to Japan of so-called rare earths, which are essential to the manufacture of many high-tech products. But traders have told news organizations since last week that shipments of the minerals have halted, and the Japanese government said it is seeking clarification from Beijing.
China produces more than 90 percent of the world's supply of rare earths, which are used in such products as computer disk drives and hybrid cars.
Japanese data shows that China became Japan's biggest trading partner last year and bilateral trade reached $150 billion from January through June this year.