TOKYO: A delegation of senior Japanese lawmakers left for Beijing on Sunday on a mission to mend ties between the two neighbors amid a territorial dispute, which has prevented a leaders’ summit.
The bipartisan delegation, led by Masahiko Komura, former foreign minister and vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, departed from Tokyo’s Haneda airport on 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 scheduled to hold talks with former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan and other Chinese officials, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said.
The delegation members, including former foreign minister also Katsuya Okada, also hope to meet close aides to Chinese President Xi Jinping in an effort to arrange a summit between 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 the East China Sea archipelago—thought to harbor natural resources—after Japan nationalized some of the islands in September 2012, setting off the latest spate of incidents in the long-running territorial dispute.
Japan is to stage amphibious landing drills in the East China Sea, coinciding with wargames Russia and China are holding near islands at the center of a Tokyo-Beijing territorial row.
About 1,330 personnel, four naval vessels and aircraft from Japan’s three services will be involved in exercises in the Amami group of islands and in waters east of Okinawa, the defense ministry said in a press release, adding they were intended to bolster Japan’s ability to “defend islands”.
The statement by Japan on its naval exercises was issued on Thursday hours after China’s state media, quoting the country’s defense ministry, said the Chinese and Russian navies will stage joint exercises “off Shanghai” in late May.
Also, three Chinese coastguard ships sailed through disputed waters in the East China Sea on Friday as Beijing maintained its defiant stance after US President Barack Obama backed Tokyo in the row.
The Japanese coastguard said the Chinese vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile band of territorial waters around one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, shortly before noon on Friday.