China has proposed talks with Japan on whether to ease or lift an import ban on food from 10 prefectures imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan-China diplomatic sources said Sunday.

The Chinese side offered to set up a working group to discuss the matter in response to a request by a Japanese lawmaker to relax import restrictions.

The development may be a sign that the governments of the two countries are looking for ways to mend bilateral ties as they mark in 2018 the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China.

Zhi Shuping, the head of China's certification and quarantine administration, made the proposal Friday when he met in Beijing with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the sources said.

Earlier, a delegation of Japan's ruling LDp-Komeito coalition led by Nikai met President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials.

While the two sides have not decided when to establish the working group, it shows a clear shift in Beijing's stance on the issue, according to a Japanese government source.

Over 50 countries and regions imposed import bans on some agricultural and fishery products from Japan after the Fukushima disaster. Nine countries and regions including China and South Korea still have import restrictions in place.

Even food shipped to China from prefectures not subject to the restriction is required to come with a certificate of origin. A radiation inspection is also needed for some products produced outside the 10 affected prefectures, which are mostly in eastern and northeastern regions.