Foreign Ministers of China and Japan held rare talks on Saturday to reduce mistrust between the second and the third-largest economies and improve relations strained by rival claims over a group of islands, with Beijing saying the ties should be based on cooperation not confrontation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his visiting Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida that China-Japan ties must be based on “respect for history, adherence to commitment, and on cooperation rather than confrontation.”
Kishida is paying an official visit to China, his first since assuming office over three years ago. It is also the first by a Japanese foreign minister in four-and-a-half years.
High-level ties between the two countries have remained largely frozen since Japan nationalised a group of uninhabited East China Sea islands claimed by China in 2012. The move sparked deep anger in China.
The uninhabited islands – believed to be rich with oil and minerals – are called Senkakus by Japan and Diaoyu by China.
The island dispute led to polarisation of sentiments in both the countries affecting their flourishing trade ties.
The maritime dispute has added to the bitterness generated by the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.
But the ties have been thawing recently after meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
China, however, remains deeply suspicious of Japan, particularly of moves by Abe to allow Japanese military to fight overseas for the first time since World War II. China objected to Japan changing its pacifist constitution.
In his opening remarks, Wang said China and Japan are neighbours and stressed that China is willing to develop a healthy and stable relationship with Japan.
“We have recently seen the Japanese side repeatedly expressing its hope of improving the bilateral relationship. You have also shown your willingness to take the first step. If you come with sincerity, we welcome you,” Wang said.
“We hope that your visit will play a positive role in actual improvement of China-Japan ties,” he added.
According to Wang, China-Japan ties went through twists and turns in recent years, due to reasons best known to Japan.
Wang said he was ready to listen to Kishida on how to improve ties, and equally important is whether Japan will turn its words into deeds, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Wang expressed sympathy to Japan over the deadly earthquakes in mid-April. Kishida thanked Wang for expressions of condolence from China.
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