Xi, Abe hold landmark meeting to end China-Japan spat

Xi, Abe hold landmark meeting to end China-Japan spat

In a diplomatic breakthrough, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe today held their maiden talks, marking the "first step" towards mending ties between the two Asian rivals after years of territorial disputes and animosity due to wartime history.

"I believe that not only our Asian neighbors but many other countries have long hoped that Japan and China hold talks. We finally lived up to their expectations and made a first step to improve our ties," Abe said, after holding ice-breaking talks with Xi.

In a break from the usual protocol, Xi made Abe wait for him rather than greet the Japanese Prime Minister on his arrival at the Great Hall of the People. China's Foreign Ministry described the meeting as being at Abe's "request."

However, this phrase was not used to report on Xi's meetings with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and other foreign leaders.

Television footage showed a grim-faced Xi shaking hands with Abe at the Great Hall of the People here before they settled for talks.

In his meeting with Abe, Xi said China hopes that Japan continues to follow the path of peaceful development and adopt prudent military and security policies.To build stable and healthy bilateral relations, China and Japan must conform to the progressive trend of the times, Xi said.

He urged Japan to "do more things that help enhance the mutual trust between Japan and its neighbouring countries, and play a constructive role in safeguarding the region's peace and stability."

Xi said the Chinese government has always attached importance to its ties with Japan, and has advocated pushing forward Sino-Japanese ties on the basis of the four political documents reached between China and Japan and in the spirit of "taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future".

Abe said Japan is determined to continue the path of peaceful development, noting that the current Japanese administration will maintain the same views held by previous governments on the history issue.

"Japan is willing to implement the four-point agreement reached between China and Japan, properly handle related issues and make it the new starting point for promoting the improvement and development of the strategic and mutually- beneficial relations between Japan and China," Abe said.

"China's peaceful development is a significant opportunity for Japan and the world," he told Xi, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Abe arrived in Beijing yesterday to take part in the two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting that started today.

There were no high-level meetings between the two countries for over two years.Today's talks followed a meeting of their foreign ministers two days ago here to reach a four-point agreement to rest their ties without prejudicial to their claims on the islands called Senkakus by Japan and Diaoyus by China.

Located in the East China Sea, the uninhabited islands believed to be rich with oil and natural resources were administered by Japan.

The row erupted when Japan bought the islands from a private party which China asserted amounted to its nationalisation.

Since then China pressed its naval vessels and air force planes to aggressively patrol the island waters often jostling with their Japanese counterparts.

China has also declared an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) which was not recognised by Japan, US and South Korea leading to tensions.

Their row also had a negative impact on about over USD 300 billon bilateral trade and investment.

The Chinese and Japanese leaders interacted awkwardly as they posed for an unsmiling photo after their talks. Abe said they had agreed to start preparations to establish a maritime crisis mechanism.

There have been fears that a clash -- accidental or otherwise -- between Chinese and Japanese paramilitary vessels patrolling waters around the disputed islands could trigger a conflict.

Xi told Abe that "historical issues concern the feelings of more than 1.3 billion Chinese people".

China has in the past complained about what it sees as Japan's failure to adequately acknowledge its war-time actions and has been angered by visits by Japanese lawmakers -- including Abe -- to the Yasukuni shrine that commemorates Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

But Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunubo Kato said there was no direct mention of the Yasukuni shrine nor of the disputed islands during the half-hour talks.

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