A ruling party heavyweight has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Tokyo next year, as the two countries show promising signs of strengthening their sometimes strained relations.

The invitation was made on Thursday by Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, during his meeting with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, according to a Japanese lawmaker traveling with him.

Xi smiled but did not give any reply, according to the lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.