TOKYO - Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, a report said Friday, as Tokyo tries to set up premier-level talks amid tensions with its giant neighbour.
The reported meeting on Wednesday is happening during Fukuda's three-day visit to Beijing as a board member of a China-based international forum, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported.
The sit down, which could not be immediately confirmed, is likely to focus on clearing the way for the first bilateral talks between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next month in China, it said.
Abe and Xi, both strong nationalists, have not held direct talks and their nations remain deeply at odds over a disputed island chain as well as bitter memories of Japan's aggression in China and elsewhere in Asia leading up to and during World War II.
But the two sides have made visible steps in recent weeks towards a possible top-level meeting.
The NHK report comes days after Japan's deputy prime minister urged China to agree to a summit, as he met with a top Chinese official.
Taro Aso and China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli briefly chatted on the sidelines of the APEC finance ministers' gathering in Beijing, ahead of the forum's annual summit.
Aso, who is also Tokyo's finance minister, told Japanese media in Beijing that he had used the meeting to call for a meeting between Abe and Xi, stressing the importance of the countries' trade and business ties.
Abe made brief contact with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang last week at an international gathering in Italy, followed by other meetings between senior officials of both countries and a visit to China by a major Japanese business delegation.
Fukuda, who led Japan for a year from September 2007 before resigning amid poor approval ratings, briefly met with Xi in April last year at the same conference he is attending next week.