November 1, 2015 / 12:30 PM / 2 years ago

Japan and China agree on moves to mend ties further

SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan and China agreed on Sunday to restart mutual visits of their foreign ministers and hold bilateral high-level economic dialogue early next year, a Japanese senior government spokesman said, as ties between Asia’s two biggest economies warm.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang (not pictured) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (not pictured) during their trilateral summit meeting at the presidential house in Seoul, South Korea November 1, 2015. REUTERS/Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also agreed the two countries would work toward an early implementation of communication mechanisms between their military forces, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters following a meeting between Abe and Li in Seoul.

“At the outset of the meeting, they agreed that ties between Japan and China are on a recovery trend, but that the momentum should be strengthened further,” Hagiuda said.

Sino-Japanese relations, haunted by the legacy of Japan’s World War Two aggression and conflicting claims over a group of East China Sea islets, have thawed a little since Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping twice since last November.

A Chinese foreign ministry statement cited Li as telling Abe that while relations were getting back on track, the road ahead remained challenging.

“I hope the Japanese side practices a positive China policy and meets China halfway to promote the continued stable development of bilateral ties,” the statement paraphrased Li as saying.

China hopes Japan can genuinely reflect on its history and understand how important the issue is to the feelings of Chinese people, he added.

“China will unswervingly stick to the path of peaceful development and hopes that Japan continues to go down the same path and that (Japan) does more to benefit regional peace and security on matters of the military and security and respects the concerns of its Asia neighbors,” he added.

In an additional step to ease bilateral tension, the two leaders agreed that Beijing and Tokyo will work to restart talks on an contentious issue of oil and gas field development in the East China Sea, Hagiuda said.

China said in July it had every right to drill in the East China Sea close to waters disputed with Japan, adding that it did not recognize a “unilateral” Japanese median line setting out a boundary between the two in the waters.

The comment came after Japan had called on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea close to waters claimed by both nations, concerned that Chinese drills could tap reservoirs that extend into Japanese territory.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Seoul and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; editing by Andrew Roche

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