Chance encounter leads to end of China-Japan rift

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BRUSSELS | Japan declared an end Tuesday to a dispute with China over a high-seas collision last month, and the two countries agreed to resume exchanges and projects that had been stopped because of the incident.

The breakthrough came after the prime ministers of the two countries held an impromptu after-dinner meeting in the corridor of an Asia-Europe summit.

But the dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that led to the maritime clash remained unresolved, with both countries claiming possession.

The diplomatic confrontation threatened to dampen the atmosphere at the biannual Asia-European Union summit, or ASEM, as Prime Ministers Wen Jiabao of China and Naoto Kan of Japan studiously avoided each other during the first session of the 48-nation conference.

But then they walked out of the working dinner at the same time and “happened to meet in the corridor,” said Satoru Satoh, the Japanese Foreign Ministry press secretary. They talked briefly and agreed to move past the maritime incident. Only the two men and their interpreters were there, he said.

“This particular incident is over,” he told reporters in Brussels.

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “both parties agreed to strengthen nongovernmental exchanges and communications between the governments, and to hold high-level Chinese-Japanese talks at the appropriate time.”

Despite the thaw, both sides remained firm on the territorial dispute: The statement said Mr. Wen reiterated that the uninhabited islands — called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan — belong to China.

Tokyo also made clear that Japan was not compromising on its claim, which dates back to 1895. Mr. Satoh said Japan sees no need to ask a third party or the United Nations International Court of Justice to mediate the territorial dispute.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara called on Beijing to meet and discuss ways the countries could avoid such spats.

The collision of a Chinese trawler with two Japanese patrol vessels last month and Japan’s detention of the fishing boat captain plunged relations to their lowest level in five years, although ties appeared to be heading back on track last week.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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