Japan, China foreign ministers discuss how to improve soured relations
Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Japan to "make practical efforts to overcome existing political obstacles between the two sides", as he held an "informal" meeting with his Japanese counterpart for the first time since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012.
Few details were revealed about the Saturday night meeting on the sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum in Myanmar. But analysts said there was now a greater chance of a summit between President Xi Jinping and Abe during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing later this year.
Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent months, with each side accusing the other of flying military aircraft too close to its own jets in a long-running territorial dispute over islets in the East China Sea.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday said he and Wang had discussed measures to improve relations. He is believed to have called for Wang's cooperation in setting up a meeting between Abe and Xi .
"I met him [Wang] and spoke with him for a long time," Kishida said. "With this [the meeting] as a starting point, we would like to promote relations with China."
Xinhua reported Wang had clarified China's principles and stance in "a serious manner".
Da Zhigang, chief researcher in Northeast Asia relations at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the meeting underscored that Beijing and Tokyo understood the current impasse was in nobody's interests.
"I think the chance for Xi and Abe to meet during Apec is increasing, but there are two pre-conditions," he said.
"First, Japan doesn't do anything to offend China and, second, the public should accept such a meeting."
Lian Degui, deputy director of Japanese studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the Wang-Kishida meeting showed "early signs of improvement in relations" but there was still mistrust on both sides.