Japan-China ties at 'crucial stage'

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Japanese Foreign Minister asks Chinese counterpart to do more to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons programme

BEIJING Japan's Foreign Minister called on China to increase cooperation on curbing North Korea's nuclear weapons programme yesterday during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing.

The meeting between Japan's Taro Kono and China's Wang Yi comes as the rival nations aim to improve relations held back by long-standing and seemingly intractable disputes over territory and Japan's war-time legacy.

While ties between Asia's two largest economies have shown signs of warming, China's President Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have yet to meet on their own soil.

In Beijing, Mr Kono praised the progress between the countries towards improving ties, while calling on China to do more to curb Pyongyang's weapons programme.

"I believe it is important not only to discuss issues related to our two countries, but for Japan and China to stand side by side to deal with global issues," he said.

"In particular, the North Korea issue is now an urgent issue for the whole of international society."

The two countries are preparing to mark the 40th anniversary this year of the signing of a Japan-China friendship treaty.

Relations between the two countries are at a "crucial stage", Mr Wang told Mr Kono.

"There is positive progress, but many disturbances and obstacles remain," he said.

A major source of tensions is a long-standing dispute over islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Tokyo's decision to "nationalise" some of the islets in 2012 led to a major falling out between the two countries.

Chinese coastguard vessels routinely travel around the disputed islands, a practice that has elicited regular objections from Japan, which controls the region.

Although the issue was not mentioned publicly, it was likely a subject of conversation behind closed doors.- AFP