MILAN, ITALY – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exchanged greetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday during a gathering of Asian and European leaders, a senior government official said Friday.
Abe and Li, the second-highest ranking official in the Chinese Communist Party, shook hands with a smile while standing after a dinner for leaders attending a summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters.
The exchange occurred as the Asian neighbors try to mend strained relations over disputes about territory and history ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing in November.
Seko said the two did not talk about the upcoming APEC summit, where Abe has said he hopes to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time.
Last year, Beijing rebuffed all attempts to arrange meetings between Abe and high-ranking Chinese officials. But recently signs of improvement in Japan-China relations have emerged, including high-level talks between the two countries in late September on maritime security in the East China Sea.
Last week Abe also met briefly with Li Xiaolin, the youngest daughter of former President Li Xiannian, at a cultural event in Tokyo. Li Xiaolin has known Xi since childhood.