Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pressed on with a diplomatic offensive aimed at securing his first-ever summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A recent flurry of activity has thawed relations that had been in deep freeze for two years, and Abe has embarked on a concerted effort to get face time with the Chinese leader on the sidelines of a regional summit in November.
"I wish to realise summit talks (with Xi) at an early time... in order to build stable and friendly relations between Japan and China, both of which share responsibility for the region`s peace and prosperity," he said in a policy speech to parliament.
"Japan and China are an inseparable pair. China`s peaceful development means a big opportunity for our nation," Abe said.
The remark came as Beijing prepares to host a gathering of leaders of countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Abe and Xi have not held a summit since the Japanese leader came to power in December 2012, followed by the Chinese leader`s appointment as president in March 2013.
Efforts to improve soured ties have accelerated in recent months, with tentative public high-level contacts.
Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida has met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, a veteran Japan-handler who speaks fluent Japanese and had served as an ambassador to Tokyo.
A former Japanese prime minister and a major business delegation also visited China recently to meet senior officials, a move seen as helping Tokyo`s efforts.
The Japanese business community is watching with keen interest whether Beijing and Tokyo can use APEC as an opportunity to ease tensions, if not to reset relations.
Japan and China have a tumultuous relationship that is particularly bitter on the subject of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Tokyo controls as the Senkakus but which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus.
China has also voiced its distrust of Abe. It portrays him as a historical revisionist whose conservative beliefs are seen as symbolised by his visit to a controversial Tokyo war shrine.