The leaders of China and Japan shook hands and spoke to each other in an unexpected meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, according to a BBC report.
It was the first time China’s Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe have met since coming to power in March 2013 and December 2012 respectively.
Relations between the two countries have been strained by the territorial dispute over the islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Both nations claim the islands.
The Japanese government bought three of the islands from their private Japanese owner last year, angering China. Ever since, China has been sailing vessels in and out of what Japan considers its territorial waters around the islands.
Mr. Xi and Mr. Abe met briefly for four to five minutes just before the main G20 leaders’ session began Thursday, according to Japanese officials.
According to a Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, Mr. Abe talked to Mr. Xi “about our thoughts that we should develop Japan-China relations by going back to the original point of the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship”.
Mr. Xi said his nation’s ties with Japan were “facing grave difficulties” which “we are unwilling to see”, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
Mr. Xi explained that China wanted mutual beneficial ties, Xinhua reported, but Japan must address the territorial dispute and historical issues “in line with the spirit of facing history squarely and looking forward to the future”.
China accuses Japan of not adequately addressing issues related to its conduct during the Second World War. Image/Reuters