A veteran Japanese diplomat secretly visited Beijing in mid-September with the aim of finding common ground to arrange the first official summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, sources familiar with the situation said.

Hideo Tarumi, who has a great deal of experience dealing with Chinese affairs, was also in Beijing this spring behind the scenes, the sources said on Tuesday. There is a strong possibility that he was charged with a secret mission from Abe, they said.

Ahead of this year's summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing on Nov. 10 and 11, Japan and China have been making diplomatic contact in an attempt to reduce tensions heightened by the Senkaku territorial dispute and wartime issues.