Beijing: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday offered Japan a chance of improved relations - but only if Tokyo's leadership honestly confronts the country's World War II aggression against China.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and amid strained ties Beijing frequently calls on Tokyo to take a "correct" view of the conflict and avoid glossing over responsibilities for atrocities during its invasion and occupation of large swathes of the country in the 1930s and 1940s.
"It is true that the current China-Japan relationship is in difficulty," Li told reporters, calling perceptions of the war the "crux" of the problem.
"At such a critical moment this year there is both a test and an opportunity for the China-Japan relationship," he added, speaking at his annual press conference after the close of the country's Communist-controlled National People's Congress legislature.
"If leaders of Japan face history squarely and maintain consistency in how they view that part of history there will be a new opportunity for improvement and further growth of China-Japan relations," he added.
He also said that such a stance would "create favourable conditions" to expand business relations between the world's second- and third-largest economies.
Li's comments and wording were in line with Beijing's standard position, but were not as bombastic as the salvos of criticism frequently lobbed by Chinese foreign ministry officials at regular briefings and commentaries in state media.
He also took care to mention that the Japanese had also experienced pain during the conflict.
"The war of aggression imposed on the Chinese people by the Japanese militarists brought untold sufferings and the average people in Japan were also victims of that war," he said.
China has in the past emphasised it has no quarrel with the Japanese people.
But Beijing - which regularly exploits nationalism as part of the Communist Party's claim to a right to rule - is planning a major military parade to commemorate the end of the war.
Li did not address the impact the event might have on Japanese sentiments, but said it was intended to "bear in mind the hard lessons gained from the past and ensure that that kind of history will never repeat itself".