A senior Chinese leader is calling for talks with Japan to resolve an increasingly bitter dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea.
Jia Qinglin, who heads China's top political advisory body, says the two sides should handle the dispute in order to protect relations and preserve regional stability.
His comments, published Thursday in the state-run China Daily, were made during a meeting with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who supports closer relations between the two Asian powers.
Jia is quoted as saying China “attaches great importance” to its ties with Japan, and will continue to develop relations “in accordance with previous agreements.”
China-Japan relations sank to their lowest level in years after Japan nationalized some of the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Since then, Beijing has sent regular patrol boats to “monitor” the Japanese-controlled islands, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential energy deposits.
Both countries also have sent fighter jets to the islands in recent weeks, raising fears of a conflict between Asia's two largest economies.
Japan annexed the islets in the late 19th century. China claimed sovereignty over the archipelago in 1971, saying ancient maps show it has been Chinese territory for centuries.
Yukio Hatoyama was prime minister of Japan from September 2009 to June 2010.