A visiting senior Chinese official known for her close ties with President Xi Jinping met briefly with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to the the top government spokesman in Tokyo.
Abe’s meeting on Tuesday night with Li Xiaolin, the youngest daughter of former President Li Xiannian, who has known Xi since childhood, comes at a time when the Japanese leader is looking for his first summit with Xi, despite bilateral ties that are strained by historical issues and a territorial dispute.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that the two met at a cultural event.
Li, who is president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, is also scheduled to attend a series of other events and meetings with the theme of bilateral friendship.
Abe hopes to meet with Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s summit in Beijing next month.
Japan and China are at odds over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and over members of the ruling Democratic Party, including Abe, visiting the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
“I have found China becoming more positive toward improving relations (with Japan),” Abe said in a Diet session on Wednesday, when asked about the current state of bilateral ties.