TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart have pledged to improve ties between their nations and affirmed a commitment to stick with U.N. resolutions aimed at forcing North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.
Kono met the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, in Tokyo on Sunday, having made his own official visit to Beijing earlier this year.
Wang is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in a bilateral context in the nine years. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping last year promised to reset the sometimes fraught relations between Asia’s two largest economies.
“Through mutual visits between our two leaders we agreed to pursue wide-reaching cooperation and improved ties,” Kono said after Sunday’s meeting.
Economic ties between Japan and China are close, led by corporate investment. The neighbors remain at odds, however, over China’s growing military presence in the South China Sea, through which much of the region’s sea-borne trade sails, and a dispute over ownership of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Tokyo and the Diaoyu in Beijing.
Wang said his visit was in response to Japan’s positive attitude towards China.
“Since last year Japan has, in relations with China, displayed a positive message and friendly attitude,” he said.
The talks came ahead of a summit between the two Koreas this month and a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jon Un and U.S. President Donald Trump. The U.S-North Korea talks are aimed at ending a stand-off over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
“To establish a complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea we agreed to continue to fully implement all relevant U.N. resolutions and to work closely together,” Kono said.
Wang, who spent eight years in Japan as a diplomat, including three as China’s ambassador, is scheduled to hold further talks with Kono and other Japanese Cabinet ministers on Monday.
On Tuesday Japanese Self Defense Force officers will meet counterparts from China’s People’s Liberation Army at a reception hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in an effort to build trust between the military rivals.
(Changes to Japan and China pledged relationship reset last year.)
(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Sam Holmes and David Goodman)