BEIJING -- Top officials from Japan's ruling coalition called for a new era of bilateral ties in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, though Xi made no concrete commitment for greater exchanges with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"We want to build on the momentum," said Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party.
"We will be waiting for you in Japan in 2018," he added. He was accompanied by Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue.
Xi said Nikai and Inoue's trip seemed to be going well. When the two Japanese politicians touched on their visit to Fujian Province, where Xi had long been posted, the Chinese president happily urged them to see China's other provinces as well.
Prior to meeting Xi, Nikai gave a speech at the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, where future party officials are educated. He said he wanted the countries' ties to go further than the mutually beneficial strategic relationship they agreed on in 2006, to a point where they can build a future together.
"I spoke about building a bilateral relationship for a new era," he said while meeting Xi.
Nikai's comments reflect the Japanese government's desire for Abe and Xi to frequently visit each other. "We talked about the basics of Japan-China exchanges in front of many people, so we will eventually see the results," Nikai said after meeting the Chinese leader.
"Mr. Xi seemed interested in improving Japan-China relations," Inoue also said.
Xi is now in a good position to make big decisions regarding China's ties to Japan, having solidified his standing within the Communist Party at the twice-in-a-decade congress in October. North Korea's continued nuclear and missile development has also made bilateral cooperation a priority.
But China continues to send its military near the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands and is also militarizing the South China Sea. Security issues could remain a sticking point in bilateral ties.