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Senior official tells Japan not to meddle in South China Sea

China’s information minister called on Japan on Tuesday not to interfere in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but also stressed the need to promote bilateral ties.

“There are people who make a fuss about it, although it originally is not Japan’s problem. This causes a new problem,” Jiang Jianguo, minister of China’s State Council Information Office, told a forum in Tokyo attended by representatives of the two countries’ business and political circles.

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But Jiang also pointed to the importance of promoting bilateral ties, saying that developing the relationship “matters for the stability and peace of Asia and the world”.

China maintains that its territorial disputes with other claimants over the South China Sea should be resolved bilaterally, not multilaterally, and without the interference of non-claimants such as the United States and Japan.

Japan, which sees the South China Sea as a vital sea lane for its oil imports, has repeatedly voiced concerns about China’s construction of outposts in the waters and use of them for military purposes, deemed as a way to assert its territorial claims and maritime rights.

At the same symposium, former top Chinese diplomat Tang Jiaxuan similarly expressed dissatisfaction with Japan’s stance over the South China Sea issue.

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“Intentionally taking up the issue or intervening and interfering in various ways only complicates the problem. I hope the Japanese side will support efforts by direct parties to the dispute to resolve the issue peacefully,” said the former state councillor and foreign minister, who now heads the China-Japan Friendship Association.

But Tang stressed that it was important for Beijing and Tokyo “to expand mutual cooperation as the world’s second and third-largest economies and fulfil responsibilities” for the stability of the international community.

Also attending the symposium, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said an envisioned trilateral summit that also involved South Korea “would be a chance to improve the Japan-China relationship and put it back on track”.

Souring ties in Northeast Asia cast shadow over trilateral summit

The three-way summit, which Japanese government sources say could be held in Japan in November or later, would be a fresh sign of a thaw in ties between the two neighbours.

In a keynote address at the forum, former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda called for more efforts by both sides to promote bilateral ties.

“I do not want the two countries to unnecessarily irritate each other and create a situation where the opponent needs to force countermeasures,” he said.

The forum has been held annually since 2005, even during a period when nearly all high-level government-to-government exchanges stopped due to tensions in the East China Sea over a Japan-administered islet and issues related to Japan’s wartime past.