The results of meetings that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang seem to bode well for an improvement in Japan-China relations, which have been strained for years. Difficult issues remain that cloud prospects for better bilateral ties, but momentum toward such an outcome is building just as both Abe and Xi have solidified their political footing at home — Abe with yet another landslide win by his ruling coalition in the October general election and Xi after tightening his grip on power at the Chinese Communist Party convention last month. Both leaders should use their solidified power bases in the efforts to overcome differences and repair bilateral relations.
Abe held talks with Xi on Saturday in Danang, Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and with Li in Manila on Monday on the fringes of a series of meetings between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its partners. It is rare for Japan's prime minister to hold back-to-back meetings with a Chinese president and premier over such a short period.
During the Abe-Xi talks — their sixth meeting since they both took power in 2012 — the prime minister expressed his hope to "strongly" push for improvement in Japan-China ties under the principle of a "mutually beneficial strategic relationship." Abe requested that Xi visit Japan at an early date, and Xi replied that he attaches importance to mutual visits by top leaders of the two countries. No top Chinese leader has come to Japan for bilateral talks since 2008 — an extraordinary situation given the importance of the Japan-China relationship. This situation should be rectified as quickly as possible.