BEIJING, March 22 Japan and China are well aware
they should maintain economic exchanges despite political and
territorial disputes, the outgoing chairman of Toyota Motor
Corp., Fujio Cho, said on Friday.
A delegation led by Cho, which cancelled a visit to Beijing
last September amid violent anti-Japanese protests across China,
was the highest-level Japanese industry group to meet with the
Chinese government since a handover of power to a new lineup of
Chinese leaders earlier this month.
The protests were triggered by a dispute over a series of
tiny uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that have been
mostly under Japanese control since 1895 but claimed also by
China. Businesses were looted and some Japanese were attacked.
"Even if there are political problems, we should somehow
maintain economic exchanges," Cho, who steps down as chairman of
Toyota in June, told reporters. "I felt both sides shared an
awareness of this."
Cho, leading a delegation of businessmen from the
Japan-China Economic Association, met earlier in the day with
newly named Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao.
Li told the Japanese that he wants to improve relations with
Japan which he said, as neighbouring countries, was in the basic
interests of both peoples, according to Kenji Inaba, a director
of the Japanese association.
Though anti-Japanese sentiment has calmed since the worst of
the protests last year, the problem still hangs over crucial
trade and economic relations.
Toyota's combined January-February sales for China dropped
13 percent from the same period a year earlier.
The dispute in recent months had escalated to the point
where both sides scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships
shadow each other, raising fears that an unintended collision or
other incident could lead to a broader clash.
The rocky islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in
China, are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially
huge oil and gas reserves.
(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Additional reporting by Ben