Japan, China look to get ties back on track

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But visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was told by his counterpart Wang Yi that although Beijing welcomed Tokyo's efforts to improve ties, it urged Japan to "put words into real actions".

During the meetings in Beijing, Kono is also aiming to make arrangements with China to hold as soon as possible a trilateral summit also involving South Korea, which Tokyo wanted to host a year ago, the official said.

Kono also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi during his trip to Beijing - the first by a Japanese foreign minister for almost two years.

There were signs of a thawing in relations between China and Japan on Sunday as the two sides agreed to resume reciprocal visits by their leaders and reaffirmed their shared stance on North Korea. The summit would bring Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Tokyo for the first time since he took office in 2013.

"Your visit to China at the beginning of the year shows the Japanese government's strong willingness to improve bilateral ties", Wang said.

A statement from China's foreign ministry listed a handful of modest accomplishments from the talks, including an agreement to avoid double pension payments for those working in each other's countries.

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In a recent written interview with Chinese media, Kono noted that China and Japan are respectively the second-and third-largest economies in the world and said the steady growth of their ties benefits both nations and the global community.

Earlier this month, Beijing called on Japanese authorities to avoid creating "artificial" incidents around disputed islands, after the Japanese Kyodo news agency reported, citing the country's Defense Ministry, that a Chinese frigate and an unidentified foreign submarine had been detected outside Japanese territorial waters, near the islands.

But on a range of issues - from developing a military hotline, to easing tensions around disputed islands in the East China Sea and to a state visit - Kono came away with little more than vague promises.

The three countries have been rotating summit-hosting duties since 2008, but the meetings were not held in 2013 and 2014 after a chill in Japan-China relations over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute. He urged China to prevent a recurrence of such entry. He added "to improve and develop China-Japan relations meets the interests of both sides, and common aspirations of various circles of the two societies".

Tokyo's decision to "nationalize" some of the islets in 2012 led to a major falling out and the relationship has been slow to recover.

However, Gao said he is only prudently optimistic about the relations' prospects because deep-seated sensitive issues have yet to be resolved, and Japan should make more tangible efforts to work on them.

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