Japan's new China envoy urges stronger economic ties

New Japanese ambassador to China Masato Kitera (R) shakes hands with former ambassador Uichiro Niwa at a reception for them in Tokyo on Dec 20, 2012. Former ambassador Uichiro Niwa was replaced by Mr Kitera after he raised hackles at home when he accurately predicted a plan by former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara to buy the disputed islands known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu in China could cause a crisis between China and Japan. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's new envoy to China urged stronger economic ties with Beijing in an interview broadcast on Monday, after the incoming premier pledged to mend bilateral ties strained by a bitter territorial row.

Ties between Asia's two biggest economies have become increasingly strained over a disputed island chain - the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu islands - with neither side willing to budge after months of wrangling.

"My mission number one is to improve the Japan-China relationship," Mr Masato Kitera, a career diplomat who will succeed Mr Uichiro Niwa as Japan's ambassador to China, told public broadcaster NHK.

"I will explain to China's senior officials we need to make economic ties warmer if our political relationship is cooling, as Japanese corporate activities in China are contributing to the Chinese economy," he said.