China and Japan to discuss gas and history

Senior Chinese and Japanese officials met Friday to try healing a rift between the two Asian powers over rival claims to gas deposits in disputed territory, and over World War II historical issues. Meanwhile, Beijing urged Tokyo to keep its promise to destroy all chemical weapons Japan abandoned in China after its defeat in the war.

Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo headed the talks, the third round aimed at improving soured ties following violent anti-Japanese protests months ago over Tokyo's wartime aggression and its bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat.

Both sides said the meeting was likely to cover other issues, like the multinational effort to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Yachi reportedly met with his South Korean counterpart, Yu Myung-hwan, in Tokyo on Thursday before heading to Beijing. Contents of their discussion were unavailable, but South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States are participating in talks with North Korea on its nuclear program.

"These are strategic talks that could be about anything. They will cover a wide range of issues," said Keiji Ide, a spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, speaking at a regular briefing on Thursday, described the atmosphere of the last round of talks, held in Tokyo in June, as "pragmatic and productive."

But, he noted, "we have our serious disputes."

He said he hoped both sides show flexibility in Beijing "so that we can achieve the objective to find a solution through peace and talks and dialogue."

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura plans to visit China later this month for talks with its foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Friday. Ide said he could not comment on the report.

Japan has complained that China is drilling for undersea gas in a disputed area between the two countries, and has started work on a gas pipeline. Beijing says it is within its rights to develop the region's resources, according to the AP.

Also, China and other nearby countries have chastised Japan for textbooks that critics say gloss over its wartime atrocities in Asia.

Beijing also has criticized Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for visiting a Tokyo shrine honoring the country's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

The call for Japan to completely rid China of chemical weapons it abandoned there came in a separate meeting Friday between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and Takeshi Erikawa, vice minister at Japan's Cabinet Office, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on its Web site.


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