Tokyo says 'window of dialogue' open despite China tensions

TOKYO - Japan said on Wednesday that it had a "window of dialogue" open with Beijing, and hopes to hold senior defence official talks, despite vowing to forcibly expel any Chinese landing on disputed territory.

"We have the window of dialogue with China certainly open through diplomatic channels," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

He also confirmed the two sides were trying to arrange talks, following a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper which said the Asian giants were planning a defence meeting later this month, even as they remain locked in a tense stand-off over a group of Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

On Tuesday, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe vowed to "expel by force" any Chinese landing on the islands, after eight Chinese government vessels sailed into the disputed waters, although the premier himself has previously said he was open to talks with Beijing.

The latest clash over the archipelago upped the stakes in a tense diplomatic battle as nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in central Tokyo, seen as a potent symbol of Japan's imperialist past, riling Beijing and neighbouring South Korea.

Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan after the state-owned Chinese ships entered its territorial waters while Beijing called the shrine visit an "attempt to deny Japan's history of aggression".

Chinese ships have entered Japan's territorial waters on numerous occasions in recent months, but the flotilla on Tuesday was the biggest to enter the waters in one day since Tokyo's nationalisation of some of the archipelago in September.

A group of Japanese nationalists said on Tuesday it had sent nine ships to the area around the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan.

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