Never in the past 1,500 years has Tokyo had a smooth relationship with Beijing, Japanese deputy prime minister Taro Aso said during a visit to India.
"India shares a land border with China, and Japan has had maritime contacts [with China], but for the past 1,500 years and more there has never been a history when our relations with China went extremely smoothly," Aso said, according to the Nikkei and the Sankei Shimbun newspapers.
The comments at a meeting with Indian business people in New Delhi came amid continuing tensions with Beijing over the disputed East China Sea islands of the Diaoyus, controlled and called the Senkakus by Tokyo.
Aso, a former prime minister, made the comment in response to a suggestion that Japan and India strengthen defense and maritime cooperation since both have territorial disputes with Beijing.
The latest dispute with Delhi is over an alleged incursion by mainland troops deep inside Indian-claimed territory.
Aso also called for close defense cooperation among Japan, Australia, India and the United States to ensure regional stability.
Aso angered Beijing last month as he joined several Japanese lawmakers in visiting the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead, including World War II criminals. Beijing and Seoul see the Shinto shrine as a symbol of Japan's militarist past. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE