TOKYO: Long-frosty ties between Tokyo and Beijing were showing signs of a slight thaw Friday after a meeting between their two foreign ministers and as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his call for a summit.
Speaking to a news conference in New York, Abe said he hoped to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November on the sidelines of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.
“Because we have issues, we have to have dialogue without any precondition,” said Abe, who visited New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
“I thinks it’s good to hold a Japan-China summit when I visit Beijing for APEC,” he said. “For the goal, the two countries need to continue making quiet efforts.”
Abe has regularly called for talks with Xi—most recently in July—but has been rebuffed by Beijing.
Relations have been dire in recent years, with the two huge trade partners rowing over the ownership of an East China Sea island chain and over Abe’s visit to a Tokyo war shrine.
There has been no Japan-China summit since Abe came to power in December 2012.
Tensions rose further late last year after Abe visited the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida held an “informal meeting” on the sidelines of the UN assembly, the two countries said.
“We hope the Japanese side will take concrete actions to improve bilateral ties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in Beijing.
Beijing claims relations were damaged by Japan’s nationalisation of the disputed islands, conflicts over interpretations of World War II history and Abe’s visit to the shrine.
Following the meeting, Kishida said the two ministers “exchanged views in a frank and sincere manner” but had yet to decide on any schedule for a Japan-China summit, according to Jiji Press.
Meanwhile, Abe told the news conference that air strikes by the United States and its Arab allies against jihadists in Syria were “unavoidable measures”.
But he stressed Tokyo’s contribution should be limited to “humanitarian support that excludes military contribution”.
During the UN assembly, Abe pointed to Japan’s foreign assistance, including $50 million it has committed to support relief efforts in the Middle East, where the recent rampage by Islamic State jihadists through parts of Iraq and Syria has worsened an already dire refugee crisis.