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Pentagon chief seeks to calm China-Japan row

18 september 2012, 19:14
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was to deliver an appeal for calm in talks with senior Chinese military leaders Tuesday amid an escalating territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, AFP reports.

Panetta's meetings come at a delicate moment with Beijing and Tokyo engaged in a war of words over a disputed archipelago in the East China Sea, with more anti-Japan demonstrations taking place Tuesday, a key historical anniversary.

Before his scheduled talks with General Liang Guanglie, his Chinese counterpart, Panetta was welcomed by Chinese troops marching in dress uniforms in an elaborate red-carpet ceremony at the defence ministry.

Widespread anti-Japanese protests, some of them violent, have been held across China in recent days.

Before of his arrival in Beijing, Panetta told reporters in Tokyo that both China and Japan had to exercise "restraint" and avoid provocations that could "blow up" into a full-fledged war.

But it was unclear to what degree the United States could defuse the crisis, given the difficult history between the two Asian countries and Beijing's suspicions over Washington's role in the region.

While Panetta sought to calm the waters, Japanese coastguards said they had warned away a Chinese vessel spotted near one of the islands at the heart of the row, known as Diaoyu by Beijing and Senkaku by Tokyo.

They are claimed by both but controlled by Japan and a spokesman from the coastguard in Okinawa said the Chinese fisheries patrol boat was sighted near the main islet in the group and contacted by radio.

Also Tuesday, two Japanese activists landed on one of the islands, the government in Tokyo said.

In Panetta's three-day visit to China, he was also due to meet the Chinese leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, as well as the influential state councillor overseeing foreign policy, Dai Bingguo.

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