China and Japan hold a third round of strategic talks in Beijing today, the latest step in improving strained bilateral ties.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi head the talks.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said yesterday that the three-day talks would cover a wide range of topics.
Regional issues of major concern to both countries, such as the development of Northeast Asia, are believed to be on the agenda.
Kong said relations between China and Japan have made considerable progress in recent years but difficulties remain, requiring the two sides to approach talks in a serious manner.
Previous rounds of talks were held this year in Beijing in May and in Tokyo in June, when China said bilateral relations were at their most difficult stage since the normalization of relations in 1972.
Observers say the holding of three rounds of talks over less than six months is a demonstration of the high priority both sides have given to easing tensions through dialogue and consultation.
Relations have been rocked by a series of incidents such as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, the printing of a history textbook failing to acknowledge Japanese army atrocities during World War II and a dispute over gas fields in the East China Sea.
Liu Jiangyong, an analyst on international relations, said the development of relations with neighbouring countries was key to the foreign policy of Koizumi's new cabinet, which will be reshuffled next month.
Liu said Koizumi needs to contact Japan's neighbours, including China and South Korea, before drafting his policy.
Prior to flying to Beijing, Yachi is reported to have yesterday held a one-day strategic dialogue with First Vice-Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan of South Korea.
Liu said he expected the coming talks to reach some consensus but warned that differences would not be narrowed just through several rounds of talks.
"However, consultation is always better than confrontation," Liu said, adding that talks provide a channel for high-level information exchange.
China and Japan have already held three rounds of talks on the territorial dispute in the East China Sea but failed to reach a breakthrough.
Kong confirmed earlier that there will be another meeting before the end of this month, but the schedule has not been fixed.
Kong also once again pressed Japan to accelerate the disposal of weapons abandoned in China during World War II. A Japanese cabinet official is currently in China to discuss the issue.
Takeshi Erikawa, vice-minister for the Cabinet Office, who toured a chemical weapons burial site in Dunhua, a city in Northeast China's Jilin Province, returned to Beijing yesterday.
He is expected to meet Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei today.
Kong said Japan has been unable to provide information on where abandoned weapons have been left.
Artillery shells abandoned by Japan have been found at more than 40 sites across 15 Chinese provinces and autonomous regions. Most of those weapons were discovered in Dunhua.