Reuters International

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's foreign ministry said on Thursday it was in talks with Japan and South Korea about holding an annual trilateral meeting between their foreign ministers, but gave no date.

Last month, a senior Japanese foreign ministry official said Japan was considering holding the meeting in late August, but a flare-up in Sino-Japanese tension had fuelled concern it was difficult to have such a meeting now.

This week, a Japanese newspaper said the three were in talks about having the meeting next week.

China's foreign ministry said Japan was this year's convener and so the talks would happen in Japan.

"Recently, Japan has on many occasions brought up that it hopes to invite China and South Korea's foreign ministers to hold the eighth China-Japan-South Korea foreign ministers meeting in Japan, to talk about trilateral cooperation," the ministry said.

"At present the three parties are in consultations about the exact date of the meeting," it added.

The three-way foreign ministers' meetings are an important framework to discuss pressing regional issues, such as North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

Tension between Japan and China mounted this month after a growing number of Chinese coastguard and other vessels sailed near disputed islets in the East China Sea.

The uninhabited islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed also by China.

Ties were also strained over the South China Sea dispute, with Japan urging China to adhere to a ruling by an international court that invalidated Beijing's territorial claims there, while China warned Japan not to interfere.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Andrew Roche)

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