TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called Friday for summit talks with China and South Korea after more than a year of fractious arguments that have prevented any top-level meetings.
Beijing and Seoul have both refused to meet with conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing what they say is his lack of remorse for World War II wrongs and his intention to remilitarise Japan.
"Individual problems that we have with China and South Korea are the kind of issues that are difficult to solve in the short term," Mr Kishida said. "But I wonder if it's right to take the attitude that we should not have talks because we have issues.
"Exactly because there are problems, political leaders should hold talks and make efforts to solve them, shouldn't they?" he said.
Mr Abe, China's President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye all came to power around a year ago, but entrenched positions and growing nationalism in the three countries has prevented them from getting together.
Seoul and Beijing were angered by Mr Abe's visit last month to a shrine in Tokyo that counts 14 senior war criminals among the 2.5 million souls it commemorates. China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression in Asia.
Mr Abe defended the visit as a pledge against war and said it was not aimed at hurting feelings in China and South Korea.
Two separate territorial disputes that Beijing and Seoul say have their roots in Japan's early imperial ambitions have also roiled relations.
The diplomatic scrap between Tokyo and Beijing has increasingly spilled out onto the world stage, with dozens of Chinese diplomats penning op-ed pieces in newspapers around the world seeking to swing global public opinion behind them.
China's envoy to the African Union this week launched an attack on Abe in a press conference, warning of the impending "resurrection of Japanese militarism" and branding the premier a "troublemaker".
Tokyo launched its latest rebuttal on Friday, with the publication in the Washington Post of an opinion piece by Kenichiro Sasae, its ambassador to the US, in which he said Beijing's "anachronistic propaganda" was out of step with the world.
"China's leaders clearly misread global attitudes," he wrote. "It is not Japan that most of Asia and the international community worry about; it is China.
"China has quadrupled its military expenditures, which are hardly transparent, in the past decade. During the same period, Japan has decreased its expenditures by 6 percent," he wrote.
The row over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea continues to draw significant attention in foreign policy circles, with some observers warning of the danger of an armed clash and others drawing comparisons with Sarajevo in 1914, when a localised act of violence flung an entire continent into war.
Although Beijing has repeatedly ruled out any talks with Abe - saying in December that he would be unwelcome in China - Tokyo continues to insist the door is open.
"Among issues we have with China and South Korea are... things that could invite unexpected situations. Holding summit talks would give people in each country a sense of security," Mr Kishida said Friday.
"We will continue stressing the importance of dialogue and we strongly hope that China and South Korea respond to our call for talks," he said.