Japan and China talk on bilateral disputes, regional issues

Vice foreign ministers of Japan and China are holding talks in Tokyo on the Japanese leader's much-criticized visits to a war shrine and other disputes keeping the two countries' leaders from meeting, officials said Friday.

Japanese Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Shotaro Yachi and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo were to meet late Friday and Saturday to discuss a range of issues, including Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a war shrine deeply criticized by Beijing , a ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing departmental policy.

Beijing has refused to hold summit talks with Koizumi to protest his annual visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including convicted war criminals.

China says the visits reflect Japan 's lack of remorse for its aggression in Asia in the first half of the last century.

The two countries are also at odds over territorial issues and rival claims to undersea gas deposits in the East China Sea .

Dai met with Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Thursday and exchanged views on China-Japan relations and international affairs "in an amicable manner," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Also Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe criticized remarks by a Chinese official who said there was little hope of improving relations between the two countries as long as Koizumi is in office.

Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said that an improvement in ties under Koizumi would be difficult because the Japanese leader is unlikely to stop visiting the shrine, Kyodo News agency reported Wednesday.

Abe called the remark "inappropriate" but added that Japan looked forward to the working-level talks on Friday and Saturday, with an eye toward later discussions at a higher level, reports the AP.

D.M.

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