The foreign ministers of China and Japan have met in the Chinese capital of Beijing, hoping to overcome historical and territorial disputes to improve ties.
During the meeting on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, that China hoped to work with Japan to get relations back on a normal and healthy track as soon as possible, stressing that improved ties were in the interests of both countries.
The Chinese foreign minister said there had been positive progress in Sino-Japanese relations but there were also many “disturbances and obstructions.”
“China-Japan relations have always been like a boat going against a current, and if there is no progress, then things go backwards,” Wang added.
China and Japan have long been at odds over historical issues, with Beijing frequently accusing Tokyo of not properly compensating for its invasion of China before and during World War II.
China says some 300,000 civilians and soldiers were killed during the six-week invasion in 1937, when Japanese troops reportedly engaged in murder, arson, looting, and mass rape.
China is also locked in a territorial dispute with Japan over an uninhabited yet strategically-important cluster of islets in the East China Sea. Beijing maintains that it has indisputable sovereignty over the resource-rich islands — known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkaku in Japan — while Tokyo regards them as parts of its territory.
A thaw in relations looked likely when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in November last year on the sidelines of a regional summit in Vietnam.
Kano, the Japanese foreign minister, who is on a two-day official visit to China, expressed hope for a gradual betterment of bilateral ties, also saying that concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs featured prominently in discussions with Chinese officials.
“Not only do we need to manage our bilateral relations, but we also need to work together to deal with issues facing the entire globe, in particular the issue of North Korea, which is the matter at hand for international society as a whole,” the Japanese foreign minister said.
Tokyo has pushed for stricter measures against Pyongyang, which fired a ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido back in August.
North Korea says it needs to develop its missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies.
The US has permanent military presence in the region, including in bases in both South Korea and Japan.