(AA) – Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting Monday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit hosted by Beijing, after a two-year suspension in high-level ties over an island dispute.
The South China Morning Post news website quoted Abe as saying the 30-minute summit was “the first step for improving ties by returning to mutually beneficial relations based on common strategic interests.”
Xi called on Japan to “do more things that help enhance the mutual trust between Japan and its neighboring countries, and play a constructive role in safeguarding the region’s peace and stability,” China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
There had been no high-level dialogue between Japan and China since September 2012, when the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. The islands, known as the Diaoyu islands by China, are claimed by both countries.
China’s leaders have refused to meet with Abe one-on-one since his election in late December 2012 as a way of expressing their displeasure with the territorial dispute involving conflicting claims to the islands, among other issues.
These include strong opposition to Abe’s December 2013 visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine that pays tribute to the country’s war dead – including several war criminals from World War II.
According to Xinhua, Monday’s meeting came at the request of the Japanese side ahead of the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
Abe said after the meeting that he had discussed with Xi the launching of a hotline designed for preventing scuffles at sea following clashes in waters around disputed islands between paramilitary vessels, the SCMP reported.
For his part, Xi expressed to Abe Chinese hopes that Japan would continue working toward peaceful development, adopting prudent security and military policies and conforming to the progressive trends, according to Xinhua.
On Friday, both countries had announced their agreement to resume dialogue.
A press release by China’s Foreign Ministry said the decision aimed to overcome “political obstacles” while “facing history squarely and looking forward to the future,” state news agency Xinhua reported.
A day later, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held formal talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing to discuss last-minute arrangements for an Abe-Xi meeting.
“I believe this meeting served as an important opportunity to change gears to put Japan and China back on the path of normal relations,” The Japan Times quoted Kishida as saying after the meeting.
Since mid-September, lower-level diplomats and advisors have visited Beijing in the hope of smoothing the way for a substantive summit.