Chinese minister visits Japan for talks on N. Korea, regional issues

TOKYO Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday began a visit to Japan described as a major step forward in improving frosty relations, as Tokyo tries to stay involved in a flurry of international diplomacy over North Korea.

Mr Wang met his Japanese counterpart, Mr Taro Kono, in talks expected to touch on economic relations, territorial disputes in the East China Sea and ways to push North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

"I would like to regard (Mr Wang's visit) as a major step forward in our efforts towards improving Japan-China relations," Mr Kono said at the start of their meeting.

Mr Wang said his visit was China's answer to "positive" messages and policies by Japan.

"We are also faced with some complex and sensitive elements," said Mr Wang, a veteran Japan expert who is a former ambassador to Tokyo.

"But together with Japan's efforts... we would like to bring China-Japan relations back on a path of sustainable and normal development."

The world's second and third largest economies have a fraught relationship, complicated by longstanding disputes over maritime claims and Japan's wartime legacy.

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. Mr Kono stressed that Japan and China share the same goal on North Korea.

China showed its influence over its reclusive ally when President Xi Jinping hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife in Beijing last month.

South Korean President Moon Jae In and US President Donald Trump are preparing for separate direct talks with Mr Kim. -AFP