Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently sent a personal message to Chinese President Xi Jinping saying the two leaders should meet to repair bilateral relations, a diplomatic source said Monday.
The message was conveyed by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in late July when he visited China and met secretly with Xi as chairman of the nongovernmental Boao Forum for Asia, according to the source.
It remains unclear whether Xi will agree to meet with Abe on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing in November, as proposed by Japan.
Abe has been unable to hold a meeting with Xi since taking office in December 2012 as the countries are at odds over territory and views on history.
China has said there will be no bilateral summit unless Japan acknowledges a territorial dispute over the Senkaku group of islands in the East China Sea and Abe promises not to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
Japan has insisted that the two leaders should meet without preconditions.
Abe said Saturday when he was in Brazil that dialogue is needed because Japan and China need to resolve their differences.
"It is important for each of us to make quiet efforts," Abe said during a news conference in Sao Paulo.
In the absence of high-level intergovernmental contact, a group led by Masahiko Komura, vice president of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, held talks in May with Zhang Dejiang, ranked third in the Chinese Communist Party's powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.
Komura told Zhang that Abe hopes to meet with Xi during the APEC summit.