Updated: 01/08/2014 08:15 | By Agence France-Presse

Japan FM arrives in Spain amid China row

Japan's foreign minister arrived Tuesday in Spain, the first venue in a European tour that will also include a stop in France that he is expected to use to press Tokyo's case in its spat with China.

Japan FM arrives in Spain amid China row

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (C) is surrounded by reporters in Tokyo on December 20, 2013

Fumio Kishida's trip comes as Japan is locked in an increasingly bitter row with China, with Beijing accusing nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of whitewashing his country's empire-building past with a visit to a controversial spot that honours convicted war criminals. 

Abe's pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine on December 26 came after more than a year of high tensions over the sovereignty of disputed islands in the East China Sea, which has left some observers warning of the danger of an armed clash in the area.

A diplomatic war of words spilled over this month into the British press with envoys from both sides accusing the other of playing Voldemort, the evil wizard in the Harry Potter books and films.

Observers say Tokyo will be looking for support in Europe and other parts of the world that are sometimes suspicious of the motives of China, which accuses Japan of resurgent militarism.

During his visits, Kishida will explain about the establishment of a US-style "National Security Council" in December aimed at promoting Japan as a "proactive contributor to the peace", according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.

Kishida met with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo in Madrid late on Tuesday.

The two ministers exchanged football jerseys bearing each other's name and the number 400 -- a reference to Japan's 400-year relationship with Spain -- at the end of the meeting, according to a message posted on the Spanish foreign ministry's Twitter account.

There was no press conference but before the meeting the Spanish foreign ministry said the two men would discuss the global economic situation and the possibility of Spain and Japan working together in Latin America, "an important emerging market where Spanish firms have an important presence".

The Japanese foreign minister will make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Juan Carlos I on Wednesday before moving on to Paris where will will meet with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

On Thursday, the foreign and defence ministers from Japan and France will have their first-ever "two plus two" meeting at the foreign ministry, which will be followed by a joint press conference.

Kishida will also meet with President Francois Hollande on Thursday before leaving home.

In the "two-plus-two" meeting. Japan and France will discuss ways to keep peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa, the Japanese official said.

The four ministers will "explain the security policy of each country" and "exchange views on regional situations such as East Asia and Africa". 

"Of course, our two ministers will explain about what is happening now in East Asia and the Senkaku Islands," the official said.

Kishida's meetings in Madrid and Paris will be a "very good occasion" to explain Abe's recent visit to Yasukuni, he added.

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