China-Japan spat leads to cancelled talks at APEC meet

TOKYO, September 22, 2010 (AFP) - A two week old China-Japan row over a fishing captain's arrest in disputed waters has rippled through an Asia-Pacific ministerial conference in Japan, reports said Wednesday.

Japan, which in November hosts an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, has this week invited tourism ministers and officials from the 21-member grouping to its ancient capital of Nara.

However, Japan's newly-appointed Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi has declined a meeting with Zhu Shangzhong, vice chairman of the China National Tourism Administration.

China's delegates at the meeting also said on Wednesday that they would skip a reception hosted by Mabuchi, Kyodo News reported.

The two-day meeting until Thursday aims to explore how tourism can serve as an economic growth engine for the region, but comes amid the worst diplomatic crisis in years between the two Asian giants.

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urged Japan Wednesday to release a fishing boat captain arrested two weeks ago for allegedly ramming Japanese coastguard ships in a disputed part of the East China Sea.

The row has already affected tourism. Last week, a Chinese firm cancelled a planned corporate holiday to Japan with some 10,000 people.