Japan moves to ease neighbourly tension

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Japan moves to ease neighbourly tension

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China and Japan have used the APEC summit in Yokohama to try to break the ice in relations that have chilled markedly in recent months.

The meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been described as a big step towards improved ties.

While the leaders moved to patch things up, thousands of Japanese took to the streets to protest against what they said was Beijing’s imperialism in a territorial dispute.

In September, Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese trawler after his ship collided with the Japanese coastguard in the East China Sea. It happened near a group of uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japan, and claimed by both countries.

Fighting territorial disputes on two fronts, Tokyo has also made moves to resolve its differences with Russia over a chain of islands off the northern Japanese coast.

After Naoto Kan’s meeting with President Medvedev at the APEC summit, officials talked about improving ties.

But Russia has urged Japan to stop what it called ‘diplomatic gestures’ and the two countries’ foreign ministers had what was described as a ‘candid exchange of views’ – diplomatic speak for a row.

The islands were occupied by the former Soviet Union after World War II. The Russian president’s recent visit to the islands was the first by a Kremlin leader.

But although Tokyo has again described the trip as ‘unacceptable’, the prime minister has accepted an invitation by Medvedev to visit Moscow.