China asked Japan to not make the South China Sea the focus of upcoming talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese leaders, sources close to bilateral relations have said.

Over the next few days, Abe is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders' summit in Vietnam. He will also likely hold talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang while both attend Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in the Philippines.

The Chinese government has urged Japan through diplomatic channels for the past several months not to emphasize maritime issues to the detriment of bilateral relations, the sources said Thursday. The countries' ties are often strained by territorial and historical grievances.