A meeting last week between senior lawmakers from Taiwan and Japan’s ruling parties may pave the way for greater contact between the two neighbors — much to the chagrin of China.

Although Taiwan and Japan do not have formal diplomatic ties, the two sides have long maintained a robust relationship that includes economic and cultural exchanges. But in recent months, that relationship has grown even closer as Tokyo became far more vocal in the public sphere about its concerns over China’s assertiveness, especially its actions near the self-ruled island and in the East China Sea.

With Friday’s talks, which were initiated by Japan and focused on diplomacy, trade, national defense and security cooperation, that relationship looks to continue to expand amid Beijing’s growing push to isolate Taipei.