NEW YORK (AP) — The foreign ministers of China and Japan met late Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the bitter dispute over disputed islands that has sparked fierce anti-Japan protests in China.
China's Yang Jiechi and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba met one-on-one, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before an official readout on the discussions was available.
It is the highest-level meeting between the two Asian powers since their long-running dispute flared two weeks ago, after Japan's purchase from a private owner of some of the islands sparked the protests in China. Taiwan has also weighed in, sending dozens of fishing boats to the area on Tuesday.
Japan says the purchase was intended to calm the waters, not stir them up, to pre-empt Tokyo's governor who wanted to raise funds to not just buy but also develop those uninhabited islands.
Earlier Tuesday, senior Foreign Ministry official Naoko Saiki asserted Japan's claim to the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyu in China. She said the presence of Chinese and Taiwanese vessels risks a "miscalculation" or "accident."
She said that compromise will be difficult with China over the islands but the two countries should keep talking.
"We don't want to have any wars or battles or use of force. We have to stabilize the situation through dialogue in a peaceful manner, in accordance with international law," she told reporters.
The vice foreign ministers of Japan and China also met in Beijing Tuesday to discuss the issue.