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China tells Japan it is no threat

China's Defence Minister Liang waves during the IISS Asia Security Summit in Singapore
China's Defence Minister Liang waves during the IISS Asia Security Summit in Singapore

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told his Japanese counterpart on Saturday China's development was an opportunity and not a threat, in an apparent effort to allay concern in Tokyo at its military modernization.

Meeting on the sidelines of a security summit in Singapore, Liang told Toshimi Kitazawa that China was "willing to work together with Japan to further boost mutual political trust, exchanges and cooperation and properly handle issues of sensitivity," China's state news agency Xinhua said.

"China thinks highly of Japan's pursuit of peace and development after the World War II and takes Japan as a partner in cooperation," the report paraphrased Liang as saying.

"At the same time, China hopes that Japan can face squarely the reality that China pursues a path of peaceful development, and that China's development is a great opportunity for the world, including Japan, and not a threat," he added.

Japan has frequently expressed worry about China's double-digit defense spending increases and expanding naval reach, and said Beijing's plans lack transparency.

The two countries are at odds over China's exploration for natural gas in the East China Sea. In 2008, they agreed to resolve the feud by jointly developing gas fields. Progress has been slow and Japan has accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the deal.

The two countries are in dispute over a group of uninhabited islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

In September 2010, Japan detained a Chinese trawler captain after his boat collided with Japanese coastguard ships near the isles. Beijing canceled diplomatic meetings in protest until he was released.

China for its part believes Japan has never properly atoned for its brutal occupation of much of China from 1931 to 1945.

Still, Liang said looked forward to "working with the Japanese side for the healthy and orderly development of defense relations by carrying on exchanges," Xinhua said. "Such efforts will benefit the friendly ties in the long run."

Liang invited Kitazawa to visit China later this year, the report added.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Andrew Roche)

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