Tokyo: Japan is considering plans to calm tensions with China by acknowledging that Beijing is claiming autonomy over the Senkaku Islands, while maintaining its position that no official territorial dispute exists.
The nuanced plan would allow Japan, without changing its long-held position, to offer a small compromise to China, which has called on Tokyo to acknowledge the existence of the dispute.
Sources said that it is uncertain whether China would respond positively to such an overture.
According to the Japan Times, the relations between the two countries deteriorated after the Japanese government's purchased three of the islands from their owners, despite China's strong calls to cancel the deal.
In a meeting with a delegation of Japanese lawmakers and business leaders in Beijing late last month, Jia Qinglin, a senior Communist Party of China official, urged Japan to recognize the existence of the territorial dispute.
"Japan should realize the seriousness of the current situation, squarely face the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and correct its mistake as soon as possible, so as to avoid further damaging China-Japan ties," the No. 4 man in the party was quoted, as saying.
According to the report, Tokyo interpreted his remark as suggesting that the Chinese government has adopted the goal of making Japan acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute, without altering its position that Japan must rescind its purchase of the islets, the sources said.
Such an interpretation has led Japan to begin considering what can be done to remove obstacles that have prevented easing the current tension.
In the case of the Senkaku Islands, Tokyo would only 'acknowledge' Chinese claims to the islands given that if Japan makes clear that it 'fully understands and respects' them, it might be construed by China as acknowledging the existence of a territorial dispute between the two countries, the report said.