SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China has ruled out the possibility of a proposed summit meeting with Japan, the official China Daily reported on Tuesday, after Tokyo proposed the meeting in a bid to defuse a territorial row.
The report, quoting a statement by an unidentified Chinese official made on Monday, comes during a visit by Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki.
Mr Saiki's visit is the latest in a series of efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to improve relations soured by the bitter row over uninhabited islands claimed by both countries.
The hawkish Abe, who cemented his grip on power in an election last week, has been signalling a desire for dialogue with China – even though Japan has raised its assessment of the risk of China’s military buildup and maritime assertiveness.
The unidentified Chinese official urged the Japanese government to take concrete measures to improve strained ties rather than “empty slogans”, the China Daily report said.
It also said statements by Abe adviser Isao Iijima that a summit between Mr Abe and President Xi Jinping could occur in the “not-too-distant future”, based on conversations with Chinese officials in Beijing in mid-July, were misleading.
A Japanese foreign ministry source in Tokyo said he had not seen the China Daily report and could not comment on it directly, but said it was still possible a summit could be held“at an appropriate time”.
“It is true no concrete date is set for a leaders’ summit or foreign ministers’ summit,” the Japanese source said. “But this does not mean there will never be one in the future.”
China’s foreign ministry also said in a statement on its website on Monday that Mr Iijima had not met any Chinese government officials recently, contrary to reports on Sunday.
The China Daily quoted the unidentified Chinese official as saying: “What Iijima told reporters on Sunday is not true and is fabricated, based on the needs of Japan’s domestic politics.”
Friction between China and Japan over the disputed islands has intensified in recent years. The election of Mr Abe, perceived as reorienting Japan towards a confrontational posture in regard to Beijing, was not welcomed by the Chinese government.
Mr Abe is also perceived in China as being insufficiently or insecerely apologetic for Japan’s past militarism.
Foreign critics have also accused the Chinese Communist Party of manipulating domestic opinion through anti-Japanese propaganda and film to buttress its own legitimacy.
The China Daily is an English language publication put out by the Chinese government for foreign consumption.