, BEIJING, November 8- Chinese state run media claimed victory Saturday for Beijing after it reached an accord with Japan to tone down tensions over territorial and historical disputes that had fuelled concerns of conflict.
The two sides issued similar statements Friday after a meeting in Beijing between State Councillor Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, and Shotaro Yachi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s national security adviser.
Relations between the Asian powers have plunged in the face of rows over disputed islands in the East China Sea and Japan’s 20th century aggression against China.
A key point of contention is that Tokyo has long refused to formally acknowledge that there is a sovereignty dispute over the islands, which it controls and calls the Senkakus, but which are claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyus.
The Chinese statement said the two “acknowledged that different positions exist between them regarding the tensions” over the islands, while the Japanese text said they “recognised that they had different views as to the emergence of tense situations”.
They both said they would set up a “crisis management mechanism” to keep the situation at bay.
Visits by Japanese politicians including Abe to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, where Japan’s war dead including convicted war criminals are enshrined, are another issue, and the statements said they would make efforts to “overcome political difficulties” rooted in historical issues.
The declarations were widely seen as setting the stage for a summit between Xi and Abe on the sidelines of the upcoming APEC summit in Beijing.
But an editorial in the nationalistic Global Times tabloid, which is controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party, said the agreement was clear evidence Abe had given in to Beijing’s view.
“Now that Japan has agreed to sit down with China to talk about crisis management, it is equal to admitting that the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands’ sovereignty have become the new reality,” the paper said in an editorial.
“Abe’s striving to meet Chinese leaders have shown that his reckless practices can no longer be sustained,” it added.
But Friday’s statement was carefully worded, and Japanese media insisted that it did not amount to a recognition of a dispute over the islands.
The conservative Yomiuri Shimbun paper argued that the reference to “different views” did “not impair Japan’s position so far that ‘there is no territorial dispute’,” and said Tokyo had “firmly” maintained its stance.
It quoted an anonymous “foreign ministry executive” as saying: “The Japanese side has not made any concession on territory.”
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The long simmering tensions erupted two years ago when the Japanese government purchased from private owners the rest of the islets in the chain it did not already own, prompting vehement protests by Beijing and anti Japanese demonstrations in China.