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China and Japan leaders meet

November 10, 2014

The leaders of Japan and China have held a breakthrough meeting, following two years of simmering tensions over a territorial dispute. The pair met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe shake hands
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shared an uncomfortable-looking handshake as they greeted each other on Monday, in a long-awaited first official meeting since both leaders took office.

"This is a first step toward improving bilateral relations, returning to the core of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests," Abe told reporters after the meeting, held at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The relationship between China and Japan, the world's second and third-largest economies, has long been tense, highlighted in recent years by their dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and tensions over the legacy of Japan's 20th century invasion and occupation of China.

Both nations had on Friday issued a statement in which they agreed to resume dialogue on political, diplomatic and security matters.

Japan had acknowledged there were differing views over the status of the East China Sea islands, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku in Japan, which are controlled by Japan. The simmering dispute has raised regional security fears as patrol ships and jets from both countries have regularly shadowed each other near the islands.

Abe said he and Xi had discussed establishing a maritime communication mechanism designed to prevent clashes at sea.

Beijing had sought assurances that Abe would not repeat his controversial December 2013 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine for Japan's war dead.

The meeting between the two Asian leaders took place on the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, in which 21 member nations are gathering to discuss trade.

se/nm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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