China sees no basis for talks with Japan over islands dispute

Li Baodong speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

BEIJING (Reuters) – China sees no reason to conduct talks with Japan over their dispute about ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Chinese deputy foreign minister Li Baodong said on Tuesday.

Li said Japan’s call for high-level talks was not genuine, but merely grandstanding.

“A meeting between leaders is not simply for the sake of shaking hands and taking pictures, but to resolve problems,” said Li, speaking to reporters ahead of President Xi Jinping’s attendance at the G20 summit next week.

“If Japan wants to arrange a meeting to resolve problems, they should stop with the empty talk and doing stuff for show.”

Relations between the world’s second- and third-largest economies have been strained for months, largely because of the spat over the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to improve relations and has called for high-level dialogue with China, although he has rejected any conditions on talks and China has shown no inclination to even want talks.

Moves by certain Japanese politicians to deny the country’s wartime past also do not help, he added.

“Under these conditions, how can we organize the kind of leaders summit that Japan wants?” Li said.

China reacted with fury earlier this month after Japan’s Abe sent an offering to a shrine for war dead, which also honors war criminals, while cabinet members visited it in person.

China suffered under Japanese rule, with parts of the country occupied from the 1930s. Japanese leaders have apologized in the past but many in China doubt the sincerity of the apologies, partly because of contradictory remarks by politicians.

“What Japan has to do now is show vision and courage, properly face up to history and take a proper attitude and real actions to get rid of the obstacles which exist for the healthy development of bilateral ties,” Li said.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)