Japan says it is engaged in talks with China to resolve a territorial dispute that has disrupted ties between the two Asian powers.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura on Wednesday confirmed reports that Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai secretly met last week with senior Chinese officials in Shanghai. He said the talks were part of Tokyo's effort to continue to communicate with Beijing "at various levels" regarding the island dispute in the East China Sea.
China-Japan relations plummeted last month after Tokyo purchased a group of disputed islands from their private Japanese landowner. The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are surrounded by potential energy deposits and rich fishing grounds.
Meanwhile, senior Chinese officials have apparently rejected efforts by a U.S. diplomatic delegation to mediate the dispute. China's official Xinhua news agency says Vice Premier Li Keqiang stressed China's "solemn stance" on the issue during Tuesday meetings with former White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, ex-deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and others.
Armitage and Hadley met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday in Tokyo, where they reportedly discussed the island dispute and worsening China-Japan relations.
The dispute sparked anti-Japan protests across China and has threatened to damage trade ties between Asia's two largest economies.
China continues to send patrol boats, mostly fisheries and surveillance vessels, near the islands to stake their claim to the territory. Japan's Kyodo news agency said Wednesday that Chinese vessels were seen just outside its territorial waters near the islands for a fifth straight day.