Japan envoy in China to mend ties amid island row

A Japanese official on Friday delivered a letter to the Chinese government, China said, in an effort to address ties that have recently soured over a disputed island chain.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in August following a series of incidents involving an island chain in the East China Sea claimed by both countries, known in China as Diaoyu and in Japan as Senkaku.

Japan's Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi formally presented the letter for Chinese President Hu Jintao and held talks with State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It gave no further details.

Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba on Tuesday announced the intent to send the letter from the country's prime minister.

He declined to elaborate on the contents, but said it was a good opportunity to address ties hurt by the island dispute.

Relations worsened in August after pro-Beijing activists landed on one of the disputed islands, which are controlled by Japan. They were arrested by Japanese authorities and deported.

About a dozen Japanese nationalists raised their country's flags on the island days later.

Thousands of Chinese citizens in more than 20 cities have protested after the incidents. Japanese businesses, restaurants and cars were targeted in some cities.

On Monday, the car of the Japanese ambassador to China was targeted in Beijing when an unidentified man ripped the national flag off the vehicle.

In a meeting with the Japanese envoy on Thursday, China's Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying urged Tokyo to properly manage the issue to avoid hurting ties, according to another foreign ministry statement.

Yamaguchi was quoted as saying Japan wanted to strengthen dialogue and manage differences, said the statement released on Friday.

A spokesman for China's Ministry of Defence on Thursday also repeated Beijing's claim to the islands and said the military was capable of "safeguarding" the country's territory.

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