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International Relations

Japan and China want Abe-Xi summits in each country

Foreign ministers also reaffirm cooperation on North Korea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, and Japanese counterpart Taro Kono pose for a photo at their meeting in Tokyo on April 15.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan and China should work together to improve bilateral ties and carry out visits by their leaders to each other's soil, their foreign ministers agreed in a meeting held here on Sunday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, also reaffirmed cooperation toward denuclearizing North Korea and agreed to ensure United Nations sanctions against the regime are fully enforced.

The two countries first will prepare for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend a trilateral meeting with South Korea next month in Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could visit China by the end of the year, while President Xi Jinping follows with a trip to Japan. 

"We had a forward-looking exchange," Kono told reporters after his meeting with Wang.

Wang, who will attend the first high-level economic talks between the two nations in eight years on Monday, said he confirmed Japan's wish for warmer bilateral relations.

Wang briefed Japan on Xi's meeting last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while Kono requested Chinese cooperation for a resolution regarding the Japanese citizens abducted by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.

The ministers agreed on the importance of free trade as well, in light of increasingly protectionist policies pursued by Washington.

But longtime disputes loomed over their meeting such as the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu. Bilateral ties cannot truly develop without stability in the East China Sea, Kono said, calling for China to refrain from moves that could hurt their relations.

And though Wang acknowledged Japanese efforts to forge closer ties with China, such as Abe's support for Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, the foreign minister implied that the summits hinged on Japan respecting China's stance toward historical disputes and Taiwan.

Japan and China disagree on how best to deal with North Korea. Beijing supports Pyongyang's plans for a gradual denuclearization, while Tokyo remains skeptical of that strategy. China also wants to tackle the North's nuclear program before addressing the abduction issue.

Neither side gave a detailed account of the ministers' discussion on North Korea.

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