BEIJING - China on Tuesday brushed aside calls from Japan to hold a leaders' summit as "grandstanding", while Japan's finance minister said Tokyo should make clear it would use its navy to defend islands at the core of a dispute with Beijing.
Ties between the world's second- and third-largest economies have been strained for months because of a row over the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, as well as disputes over the countries' bitter wartime past.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to improve ties and has called for dialogue with China, though he has rejected any conditions on talks. China has shown no inclination to respond to the overtures.
"A meeting between leaders is not simply for the sake of shaking hands and taking pictures, but to resolve problems," Chinese deputy foreign minister Li Baodong told reporters ahead of a G20 summit next week that both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe will attend.
"If Japan wants to arrange a meeting to resolve problems, they should stop with the empty talk and doing stuff for show," Li said, when asked about the possibility of a meeting of Chinese and Japanese leaders on the sidelines of the G20.
Aircraft and ships from both countries have played cat-and-mouse games near the islands for months, ratcheting up tension.
Japan's coastguard said on Tuesday three Chinese coastguard vessels had briefly entered what Japan considers its territorial waters near the disputed islands. China said the trip was a routine patrol in its own waters.