BEIJING, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi discussed disputed islands in the East China Sea on Thursday, with both expressing concerns and Qin hoping Japan could stop "right-wing" provocations.
The disputed East China Sea islets claimed by both China and Japan have long been a sticking point in bilateral relations. China calls the islands Diaoyu, while Japan calls them Senkaku.
In their first conversation since Qin took office, he told Hayashi that Beijing hopes Japan can stop "right-wing forces" from provoking disputes over the contested islands, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.
Hayashi said bilateral relations face "many challenges and concerns," adding that Japanese public opinion toward China is "extremely severe," Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Hayashi also expressed "serious concerns" about the East China Sea, including China's activities around the islands, as well as its "increasingly active military activities near Japan".
But both agreed on cooperating to build a constructive and stable relationship, and said they would continue close communication at all levels, including at the summit level, the Japanese statement said.
Hayashi told a news conference on Friday that Qin had invited him to visit China, adding that the timing of such a visit needed to be arranged, Kyodo news agency said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno confirmed on Friday that the two ministers had talked and agreed to work toward cooperative, positive ties.
"I think their conversation was a good start," he told a news conference.
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