BEIJING – China said Thursday that it will hold talks with Japan to resolve territorial disputes in the East China Sea (search) despite shaky relations between them after anti-Japanese riots and an apparent diplomatic snub by Beijing this week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan confirmed the talks would take place, but said he did not have any details on the date or the venue. Japan's Kyodo News agency has reported the two sides will discuss the issue Monday and Tuesday.
"We hope that the current differences would not hamper the coming talks on the East China Sea," Kong said at a regular briefing. "We uphold the settlement of the dispute through dialogue."
The dispute is centered on gas drilling in the East China Sea, which divides China's east coast and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa. Both Japan and China claim the gas deposits, which they hope to use to power their huge economies.
Tokyo has protested Beijing's recent exploration of the gas fields, saying the activities extend into Japan's exclusive economic zone. But China has refused to halt them or respond to a Japanese request that it share the results, saying its surveys are within its territory.
"The two sides have differences in the demarcation of the continental shelf in the East China Sea," Kong said. While China hopes to "probe into ways to resolve the differences," he said it also "reserves the right to protest."
Relations between the two countries plummeted last month after anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, which were sparked by Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and new Japanese textbooks criticized for downplaying the country's wartime atrocities.
Thousands of rioters took to the streets and damaged the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Shanghai as police stood by watching.
But tensions flared again this week when Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi abruptly canceled a meeting with Koizumi on Monday while visiting Tokyo and left the country.
While China never directly gave a reason for Wu's sudden departure, it has cited its anger over Koizumi's repeated visits to a war shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's militaristic past.