Japan delegation leaves for Beijing to mend ties with China amid territorial dispute

TOKYO (AFP) - A delegation of senior Japanese lawmakers left for China Sunday to try to mend ties amid a territorial dispute which has prevented a leaders' summit.

The bipartisan delegation is led by Masahiko Komura, former foreign minister and vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. It departed from Tokyo's Haneda airport Sunday morning on a three-day visit to China, officials said.

The mission consisted of nine lawmakers of both ruling and opposition parties belonging to the Japan-China Friendship Parliamentarians' Union.

During the trip, the Japanese lawmakers are expected to meet with Zhang Dejiang, ranked third in the Communist Party, Kyodo news agency reported.

The delegation is also scheduled to hold talks with former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan and other officials, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said.

Members of the delegation, which includes former foreign minister Katsuya Okada, also hope to meet close aides to President Xi Jinping to try to arrange a summit between Mr Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, NHK reported.

The two leaders have yet to hold a summit as relations between Tokyo and Beijing have fallen to their lowest point for years.

Chinese vessels and aircraft regularly approach disputed East China Sea islands after Japan nationalised some of them in September 2012, inflaming the long-running territorial dispute.