The Japanese and Chinese governments are intensifying back-channel efforts to mend their tattered bilateral ties, after weeks of public bickering surrounding disputed islands.
Even as Chinese boats continue to hover near the contested territory, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, top diplomats from the two nations held their second official meeting this month earlier this week, a senior Japanese official said Wednesday.
The meeting between the No. 2 foreign ministry officials took place in Shanghai over the weekend, the official said. That followed a meeting between two diplomats one rung down on Oct. 11 in Tokyo.
"Japan and China have been exchanging views over the current situation in regard to the Senkaku Islands on various levels. (The talks) were part of such moves," Osamu Fujimura, the Japanese government's chief spokesman, said at a press conference.
China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, declined to comment on the talks at his daily briefing.
But China continues to send boats into the area, suggesting that the diplomatic exchanges aren't a sign that the tensions, which intensified in early September after the Japanese government bought the islands from private owners, have subsided.
Five Chinese official vessels were spotted in areas just outside of territorial waters around the disputed islands Wednesday, according to the Japanese coast guard. Last week, China held a huge naval exercise in the East China Sea, displaying its military muscle with 11 vessels.
Still, signs have emerged lately that the two sides may be moving to calm matters. The subtle shift is emerging amid growing concerns that the dispute has begun to hurt bilateral business ties and set off alarm among officials around the world that the spat between the two Asian economic giants might jeopardize global growth and destabilize the security of the entire region.