Foreign ministers of Japan, China, South Korea likely to meet next week: media

August 17, 2016 12:13 AM EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan, China and South Korea are in talks to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers next week, despite rows between Tokyo and Beijing over China's maritime expansion in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, a Japanese daily said on Wednesday.

Last month, a senior Japanese foreign ministry official said Japan was considering holding the meeting in late August, but the flare-up in Sino-Japanese tension had fueled concern it was difficult to have such a meeting now.

The Tokyo Shimbun daily said the three countries were making arrangements for the meeting to be held around Aug. 23 and 24 in Tokyo. The foreign ministers' meeting is expected to lay the groundwork for a three-way summit Tokyo is set to host this year.

Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, the Beijing-datelined story said it was possible that Japan's Coast Guard rescue of Chinese fishermen last week had warmed China to the idea of sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Japan for the meeting.

The three-way foreign ministers' and summit meetings are an important framework to discuss pressing regional issues, such as North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Japanese and South Korea foreign ministry officials said nothing has been fixed yet. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tension between Japan and China mounted this month after a growing number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships sailed near disputed islets in the East China Sea.

The group of tiny, uninhabited islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, is controlled by Japan but claimed also by China.

Ties were also strained over the South China Sea dispute, with Japan urging China to adhere to a ruling by an international court that invalidated Beijing's territorial claims there, while China warned Japan not to interfere.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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