China and Japan toned down the rhetoric on Tuesday, but both said it was up to the other to take steps to repair relations damaged by the Japanese detention of a Chinese fishing captain and a verbal fight over disputed islands.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Tokyo had to make the first move to put diplomatic ties back on track after nearly three weeks of bitterness since Japan detained the fishing captain after his boat and two Japanese patrol boats collided near islands in the East China Sea.
“If Japan values its relationship with China, it should take concrete action to repair ties,” spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news conference. When asked what specific actions Japan had to take, Jiang would not say.
However, Tokyo said Prime Minister Naoto Kan had no plans to meet with his Chinese counterpart at an Asian-European summit in Brussels on Oct. 4-5.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tokyo is “not taking any action” to arrange talks for the two leaders. “My impression is that it would be difficult for such talks to be arranged,” he said.
Maehara welcomed Kan’s decision to attend the meeting, reversing an earlier plan to miss it, because it is important for Japan to give the rest of the world a fairer picture of the development since the collision.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku also told reporters Tuesday that conditions had not been met for a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, reiterating it was up to China to repair relations.
“As I said yesterday, the ball is already in China’s court,” Sengoku said.
Wen and Kan did not meet in New York last week when both attended a U.N. gathering.
Kan’s government has come under fire at home for its decision Friday to release the fishing boat captain amid intense Chinese pressure. But his release failed to ease tensions after China demanded an apology for his detention and compensation over the weekend. Tokyo countered by demanding that Beijing pay for damage to the patrol boats from the collisions near islands that the Chinese call Diaoyu and Japanese call Senkaku. Japan controls the islands but China and Taiwan also claim them. They are located 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of Taiwan.
Beijing has not responded to Tokyo’s demand for compensation, but it earlier cut off ministerial-level contacts with Japan and called Tokyo’s ambassador in at least five times over the incident.
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said it was important for Japan for appeal to the international community over Japan’s position at meetings like the one in Brussels.
Video of the Sept. 7 encounter has not been released, but Maehara said it was “clear that the Chinese fishing boat steered (toward the coast guard vessels) and slammed into the boats.”
Demonstrating Washington’s support of Japan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on Monday praised Kan’s handling of the dispute.
“Prime Minister Kan has dealt with this issue - it’s a very difficult issue - in a very statesmanlike fashion. And it shows how important it is for peaceful diplomatic process to be conducted on issues like this.”