Regional summits this week in Indonesia became a missed opportunity for Japanese and Chinese leaders to sit down for full-fledged bilateral talks, with the two sides instead ending up exposing their deep rift over Japan's release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang had a brief exchange on Wednesday, the water issue may have a lasting impact on the relations between the two Asian powers, presenting challenges to Tokyo's efforts to stabilize ties already strained by Beijing's growing military assertiveness.

Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, an adjunct professor at Temple University Japan Campus, called the absence of an official Kishida-Li meeting a "setback, given both sides' apparent desire to arrange it," prior to the water release.