TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged a reset in frayed ties with China at his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his spokesman said.
“Prime Minister Abe explained (to Xi) about our thoughts that we should develop Japan-China relations by going back to the original point of the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg.
A Japanese embassy spokesman in Moscow said the two leaders shook hands and spoke for about five minutes.
It is the first time the two men have met since they both came to power, and was the first meeting between leaders from the two countries since a brief encounter in September last year.
Ties between the world’s second and third largest economies have been sour since September last year when Japan nationalised islands it already controlled under the name Senkakus.
Beijing says the archipelago, which it calls the Diaoyus, was illegally snatched by Japan at the close of the 19th century, and demand the islands back.
Official Chinese ships, and latterly the country’s coastguard, have regularly plied the waters around the islands in the East China Sea, where they are warned off by Japan’s coastguard.
The two countries’ militaries have also been involved, with fighter planes scrambled numerous times, although there has been no contact.
Observers warn the island spat has the potential to turn into an armed confrontation that risks dragging in other countries in the region.