China and India have agreed to hold the seventh round of border talks in New Delhi in late February.
The Foreign Ministry announced this after visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran met with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo for the two-day second-round strategic talks in Beijing, which concluded yesterday.
The ministry's spokesperson Kong Quan said at yesterday's regular press conference that the talks between the two sides concern international and regional issues, including the situation in South Asia and bilateral ties.
Bilateral relationship "benefits the people of both countries, and is conducive to peace and stability in Asia, and will also play a positive role in South-South cooperation," he said.
Kong also announced India's Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar will pay a three-day visit to Beijing starting today.
Invited by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Aiyar is scheduled to hold talks with officials from the commission and energy enterprises in order to reinforce energy ties.
Ahead of his trip, Aiyar told local press that at least five agreements will be signed with seven more likely to be finalized during his visit.
Kong was also asked to comment on the foreign media report concerning the proposed visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Kong said that he had "no specific information" about the trip.
"Of course Kim plans to visit China," he said. "But as for the exact time of the visit, I will release the information when I am authorized."
Kong said the US sanctions against North Korea had introduced "complicated factors" to the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue.
"My view is that we are facing a difficult situation now but all parties should make efforts so as to resume the next round of talks as soon as possible," he said.
Kong said China was staying in touch with all the parties concerned, with its chief negotiator Wu Dawei, also vice foreign minister, having recently met his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
The US Embassy in Beijing also confirmed that US chief negotiator Christopher Hill would visit China on Thursday, following visits to Tokyo and Seoul, to discuss the fate of the nuclear talks.
The six parties concluded the first phase of their fifth-round talks in Beijing in November.
Turning to Sino-Japanese ties, Kong said the two sides have agreed in principle to hold the next round of consultations on the East China Sea issue at an early date.
The agreement came after informal talks on Monday between Cui Tiankai, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department and Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asia and Oceania Affairs Bureau.
According to Kong, both sides frankly exchanged views on relevant issues, agreed to have further discussions on joint exploration and took a constructive attitude toward the work concerned.
China has long advocated setting aside differences and conducting joint exploration in the East China Sea, but has failed to get positive responses from Japan, he said.
"China would like to work with Japan to push forward the joint exploration in the East China Sea through consultation," he said.
Kong also hoped the Japanese media would play a positive role in enhancing mutual understanding between the general public of the two countries.
He said Japan's resident media in Beijing have done a lot in terms of comprehensive reporting of developments here, and confirmed the media's coverage of China's positive attitude toward the development of friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries.
But he pointed out that some Japanese media are keen on playing up the friction and problems emerging from recent kinks in bilateral ties.
Turning to the Iranian nuclear issue, Kong said the "best solution" currently is through talks between Iran and the three EU nations -- the UK, France and Germany.
The talks have been stalled after Iran recently announced its resumption of uranium-enrichment activities.
China hopes the talks can resume and make progress, Kong said, adding that China has maintained close contact with the various parties concerned to push forward the talks.
China has always advocated settling the Iranian nuclear issue within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he acknowledged.
Kong also announced that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will visit Nigeria from January 16-17 to upgrade political and economic ties with the African nation.
Li will sign a memorandum of understanding on the China-Nigeria Strategic Partnership and an economic and technical agreement, Kong said.
"These agreements are very important because China-Nigeria relations are developing steadily and bilateral economic and trade cooperation is expanding," he said.
"The signing of the agreements will further promote and accelerate the development of bilateral relations," he said.
Li will also visit Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Liberia and Libya from January 11-19.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency January 11, 2006)