A group of senior Japanese lawmakers yesterday held talks with Zhang Dejiang, the third-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, state media said, possibly paving the way for a meeting between the countries' top leaders later this year.
The talks marked the first time a senior representative of Japan's ruling party had met a member of China's supreme decision-making body since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012.
Zhang told the delegation that relations with Japan had frayed due to it its actions over disputed territories in the East China Sea, and its "wrong steps" in reviewing its second world war history, Xinhua reported. He urged Japan to face history and reality with honesty.
The team is being led by Masahiko Komura, a former foreign minister and vice-president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The delegation's three-day visit to Beijing, which wraps up today, caame after years of no high-level political contacts between the two countries, according to Kyodo News.
The two sides are locked in a dispute over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, in the East China Sea. China has also named Abe an "unwelcome" person after his last visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that commemorates 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including war criminals.
Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, a state-endorsed body, told Komura that actions were needed at "this most difficult time", according to Phoenix Television.
Li, also the youngest daughter of former president Li Xiannian , said: "We always hope the ruling party in Japan including Prime Minister Abe could consider the bigger picture of Sino-Japanese relations and repair the relationship."
Komura said the delegation hoped Li, reportedly a childhood friend of the President Xi Jinping , would relay their message to Xi.
Komura told Kyodo News he had already conveyed to former state councillor Tang Jiaxuan on Sunday Abe's hope to meet Xi on the sidelines of this year's summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, which Beijing will host in November. Tang said Beijing highly valued the visit, but the territorial dispute and Abe's shrine visit were problems created by Japan.
Additional reporting from Agence France-Presse