HANGZHOU, CHINA – China wants to bring relations with Japan back onto a “normal track,” President Xi Jinping told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.
At the outset of their first face-to-face meeting in over a year, Xi said that “long-term, healthy and stable” bilateral relations would benefit not only the people of the two countries but also regional peace.
Abe said Japan wants to work with China to contribute to global economic growth and forge “friendly” ties by “managing difficult issues” and “promoting win-win cooperation.”
The meeting took place in Hangzhou, China, after a two-day summit of the Group of 20 major economies ended and at a time of renewed tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Since both took power in 2012, the leaders of the world’s second- and third-largest economies have held face-to-face talks only twice — in November 2014 and April 2015 — leaving many crucial issues still unaddressed.
Japanese diplomats said it is unavoidable for Abe to tell Xi directly what Tokyo thinks, particularly when dealing with maritime disputes.
At a news conference following their talks, Abe said he agreed with Xi that the two countries will step up mutual efforts toward the early establishment of a maritime and aerial communication mechanism, a sort of hotline between defense officials from the two countries, to prevent accidental clashes in the East China Sea.
Abe, before leaving for the G-20 summit on Sunday, suggested to reporters that he would speak frankly over East and South China sea issues.
Regarding the latter issue, however, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Xi told Abe on Monday that Japan should “exercise caution in its words and deeds” on the South China Sea.
“It is extremely important to respect the rule of law and freedom of navigation,” Abe said.
China sent a record number of government vessels, as many as 15, and about 300 fishing boats close to the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands last month.
Some of the vessels repeatedly entered Japanese waters despite a series of high-level protests from Tokyo.
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