China and Japan agreed to build “mutual political trust” as they seek to defuse tensions over territory, heightening the prospect of an inaugural summit next week between their current leaders.
The two governments are in final negotiations for a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing. The two leaders have not held direct talks since Abe came to power in December 2012.
“The environment has been created and both Japan and China believe that a summit would be beneficial for both countries and for the peace and stability of the region,” Abe said in an interview with BS Fuji television.
The two countries said in a joint statement they held differing positions over islands in the East China Sea, marking the first time Japan has acknowledged China claims to the territory. To avoid “unforeseen incidents” in the area, where ships and planes from the two countries regularly tail one another, they pledged to build a crisis-management mechanism.
Both nations agreed to gradually restart various political, diplomatic and security talks that were frozen as ties deteriorated. China has demanded Japan do more to acknowledge its militant past and the countries said in their joint statement they now agreed to face history direct
Relations between the world’s second- and third-largest economies have soured over the territorial spat and lingering resentment over Japan’s role in occupying parts of Asia in the run up to World War II. Any reductions in regional tensions will also benefit the U.S., which is treaty-bound to defend Japan in the event of a conflict with China.