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China says "good atmosphere" needed for Japan talks

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) China has signalled a meeting is possible between its foreign minister and his Japanese counterpart as long as there is a ''good atmosphere'' between the feuding states, a Chinese official was quoted as saying today.

The two nations, whose relations are at their lowest level in decades over a range of disputes, began exploring a possible meeting between their foreign ministers earlier this week.

China has halted such meetings since last October, when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid his latest visit to a Tokyo war shrine that critics see as a symbol of the nation's past militarism because convicted war criminals are honoured along with war dead.

Wu Dawei, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister, was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying that China has not rejected a Japanese proposal that the two foreign ministers meet on the sidelines of a meeting of Asian foreign ministers in Doha, Qatar, later this month.

However, Wu added that a ''good atmosphere'' is necessary for such a meeting to take place.

''It (a meeting) should have results aimed at improving relations,'' he was quoted as saying.

The two nations are set to resume talks next week over a disputed undersea gas field, the fifth round of negotiations that have so far proved fruitless.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Tuesday that Beijing and Tokyo remain far from compromise over the gas fields under seas between the two nations.

At the last round of gas talks in March, Japanese media said China proposed joint development of an area around isles in the East China Sea claimed by both sides.

Japan is likely to reject the plan at next week's talks, Kyodo said on Tuesday.

Despite Japanese requests to halt development, China has continued work on its gas fields adjacent to waters over which Tokyo claims exclusive economic rights, and Japanese media have said Beijing is nearing production at some of them.

Reuters OM DB1825

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