Top Diplomats of China, Japan Agree to Cooperate on N. Korean Issues

Eels are widely consumed across Japan

Kono told Wang that true improvement in bilateral ties can not be achieved without stability in the East China Sea, where China has challenged Japan's sovereignty over uninhabited islets.

China's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in a bilateral context in nine years.

Japan and China hold their first high-level economic dialogue in nearly eight years on Monday against a backdrop of trade threats from the U.S.

"We confirmed Japan's plan to improve relations with China", Wang, who also holds the position of state councilor, told reporters after the meeting.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged a year ago to reset the sometimes touchy relationship between Asia's two largest economic powers.

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The time is ripe for the two nations to improve relations to mark the 40th anniversary of their 1978 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, both ministers said. So this week, Japan will have to walk a fine line, balancing often tense relations with its biggest trading partner against the demands of its second-largest trading partner, who is also its military ally and guarantor of its security. The dispute over islands in the East China Sea - known as the "Senkakus" in Japanese and the "Diaoyu" by the Chinese - remains a source of tension.

Wang said China and Japan should maintain momentum in the development of bilateral relations through mutual efforts such as high-level contacts.

But Tokyo is eager to get the relationship back on firmer footing, especially as it fears being shut out of negotiations on North Korea's nuclear programme in which Beijing is likely to be a major player. Japan has not. If anything, anti-Tokyo propaganda in North Korea has intensified as Mr. Kim has reached out to leaders in Seoul, Beijing and Washington. Japan has come in for criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump on trade and been hit with tariffs on steel and aluminum, but Japan has not yet threatened counter-tariffs.

"We would like to co-operate further towards the common goal between Japan and China, of establishing a complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea", Kono said as the two began talks in Tokyo.

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