Japanese, Chinese foreign ministers fail to agree on war shrine dispute

Foreign ministers from China and Japan met for their first bilateral talks in a year, the Japanese government said Wednesday, but the meeting failed to resolve a row over the Japanese prime minister's visits to a war shrine. Japan 's Foreign Minister Taro Aso and his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, met late Tuesday on the sidelines of an international economic conference in Doha , Qatar , Japanese officials said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said the two sides would have to live with their vastly different views over one of their most divisive issues: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni war shrine. Li, however, maintained it was imperative that the visits stop, Chinese state media reported. The shrine honors Japan 's 2.5 million war dead, including executed war criminals. Koizumi says he makes the visits to pray for peace, but China protests that his trips glorify Japanese's wartime conquests in Asia .

Abe told reporters in Tokyo that Japan wants dialogue with China , despite the dispute over the shrine. "I think it's necessary to understand and respect each other's views as well differences, in order for Japan and China to build mature relations," he said when asked about the failure to reach agreement over Yasukuni.

"The basic foundation is dialogue, so we must not close off this option, and it is important for both to understand this point," Abe added. But Li responded that the shrine visits severely hurt Chinese people's feelings and are getting in the way of building post-World War II relations. "It is imperative to remove such an obstacle to improving and developing bilateral ties," Li said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The estranged neighbors discussed their dispute over gas deposits in the East China Sea , approaches to the North Korean issue, regional cooperation and U.N. reform, said Abe. "I understand Mr. Aso and Mr. Li emphasized that Japan-China relations are one of the most important bilateral relations in the world," Abe said. "They agreed to further deepen interaction across all areas involving economic relations, science and technology, culture and security," he added.

Kyodo News agency said the ministers agreed to speed up negotiations on their countries' dispute over undersea gas reserves in East China Sea , another major irritant in relations between the two Asian heavyweights. Aso asked for Beijing 's understanding over the matter and proposed an early resumption of summit talks, Kyodo said. In another move to smooth Japan 's relations with its Asian neighbors, Aso also met with South Korea 's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday and agreed to hold talks next month to redraw the maritime border around a group of islets claimed by the two countries, reports the AP.

N.U.