Japan's PM urges reset in ties at 1st ever meeting with China's Xi
By Huw Griffith, AFPTOKYO -- Japan's prime minister urged the Chinese president to reset dangerously frayed ties between Asia's two largest economies when they met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Russia.
September 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The meeting was the first between leaders of the two countries since relations took a nosedive last year over the ownership of uninhabited islands, in a row that has led to warnings of a possible armed confrontation.
“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.
A Japanese Embassy spokesman in Moscow said the two leaders shook hands and spoke for about five minutes Thursday at the meeting of world leaders in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
Despite the huge economic importance of the relationship between Asia's two largest powers, the pair have not met since the hawkish Abe took office in December and Xi in March.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Abe said he had been looking forward to seeing Xi in Russia and that “I am eager to improve Japanese-Chinese relations.”
The agency, which called the encounter “polite,” cited Xi as telling Abe that Beijing wants to improve ties “on the basis of the four Chinese-Japanese political documents” — a reference to agreements hammered out from the early 1970s onwards as the two countries normalized relations.
At a press conference in Beijing on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the meeting had taken place “in the VIP room.”
“President Xi emphasized that Japan should face squarely history and look into the future and deal with ... sensitive historical issues correctly and find appropriate means to manage and solve the relevant dispute and issue,” he said.
Beijing regularly charges that Tokyo has not made sufficient amends for its aggressive and acquisitive behavior in the middle of the 20th century, and that Japan plays down the extent of its wrongdoing.
Japan says it has apologized and maintains that Beijing uses history to beat its neighbor and as a rallying cry at home to distract domestic attention from problems.
Often-difficult relations between the world's second and third largest economies worsened significantly in September last year when Japan nationalized islands it already controlled under the name Senkakus.