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As China and Japan set meeting to ease island dispute, Taiwan steps into fray

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Wally Santana/AP

(Read caption) A fisherman raises a Taiwanese national flag as several dozen fishing boats set out from the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan, to the disputed islands in the East China Sea, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, and have been a key part of simmering regional tensions over rival territorial claims.

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Chinese and Japanese officials are set to meet to discuss their nations' impasse over a disputed island cluster tomorrow, as Chinese ships patrol the area in an attempt to reinforce Beijing's claim to the islands. But a new party looks set to step in with its own claim to the islands: Taiwan.

Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai will head to China for two days of talks over the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China, reports the BBC. Hong Kong's RTHK English news adds that Mr. Chikao is expected to meet with Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Zhijun tomorrow.

The BBC reports that news of the diplomatic meeting comes amid the Chinese vessels' ongoing sail-bys in the area, the latest being a pair of "marine surveillance ships" making a "rights defense" patrol, according to China's State Oceanic Administration. Japanese officials also said a Chinese fishing vessel sailed through the area. Japan lodged a protest over the vessels' visit, with a government spokesman promising that "if they enter our territorial waters, we will raise objections at the highest level." At present, no Chinese vessels are reported in the vicinity of the islands.

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