BBC News - Japan and China 'agree to improve ties' 29 October 2010 Japan's foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, said the private meeting was calm The foreign ministers of China and Japan have met on the sidelines of the Asean summit in a move that could help ease tensions between their countries. The Japanese foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, said he and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, had agreed to make efforts to improve bilateral ties. A bitter diplomatic row flared up last month over a group of disputed islands. The regional summit in Vietnam has so far been dominated by discussions about next month's elections in Burma. On Thursday, diplomats demanded that the country's military government release immediately the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the last 21 years imprisoned or under house arrest. But Burma reportedly would not say whether she would be freed when her detention expires on 13 November, six days after the polls. 'Good atmosphere' During the summit in Hanoi on Friday, the Japanese and Chinese envoys met privately in a bid to repair relations soured when a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese patrol boats near a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea. The islands - known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu - are controlled by Japan, but claimed by China. They are close to key shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits "The discussion took place in a good atmosphere. It was held calmly while both sides said what we should say. I believe it is likely that the leaders of China and Japan will hold a meeting here in Hanoi," Mr Maehara told reporters afterwards. There has been speculation over whether Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will hold direct talks with Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan. Both countries had agreed to improve ties and "press forward the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship", Mr Maehara added. He also said he had asked Mr Yang to unblock the export of rare earth minerals and reopen talks on the joint development of a gas field in the East China Sea - called Shirakaba by Japan and Chunxiao by China - and that he had replied that both requests would be considered. China suspended talks about the gas field last month, but has denied also stopping the export to Japanese businesses of rare earths, which are used to produce electronic items such as mobile phones. Other territorial disputes involving China and its neighbours are expected to be discussed during the summit, which will broaden to include other leaders from Asia, the US and Russia.