Emperor Akihito met with visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, expressing his wish that relations between their nations continue to improve.

It is the first time the Emperor has met with a Chinese premier since a meeting with Wen Jiabao in June 2010.

Li said he hopes his visit this year — marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of a friendship treaty — would help develop bilateral ties into a "long-lasting and stable relationship," according to the Imperial Household Agency.

In response, the Emperor said, "I hope our relations of goodwill and friendship will improve."

During their 20-minute meeting, the Emperor thanked Li for China's move to donate a pair of crested ibises to Japan. "Although ibises were once extinct in Japan, I'm glad many are being bred again thanks to China's help."

The meeting came a day after Li held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Tokyo's Akasaka Palace.

Emperor Akihito, who ascended to the throne in 1989, visited China in October 1992 with Empress Michiko. He said he feels a sense of nostalgia when recalling his first visit and the cordial welcome he experienced.

Li told the Emperor that his interaction with the people in China has left an "impression" and is "symbolic" of the friendship between their countries.