TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged a reset in frayed ties with China when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit, his spokesman said Friday.
The meeting was the first between leaders of the two countries since relations took a nosedive last year over the ownership of uninhabited islands, in a row that has led to warnings of a possible armed confrontation.
"Prime Minister Abe explained (to Xi) about our thoughts that we should develop Japan-China relations by going back to the original point of the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
A Japanese embassy spokesman in Moscow said the two leaders shook hands and spoke for about five minutes at the meeting of world leaders in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
Despite the huge economic importance of the relationship between Asia's two largest powers, the two men have not met since the hawkish Abe took office in December and Xi in March.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Abe said he had been looking forward to seeing Xi in Russia and that "I am eager to improve Japanese-Chinese relations".
The agency cited Xi as telling Abe that Beijing wants to improve ties "on the basis of the four Chinese-Japanese political documents" - a reference to agreements hammered out from the early 1970s onwards as the two countries normalised relations.
The report said Xi had reiterated China's position that Japan must address historical grievances.
Beijing regularly charges that Tokyo has not made sufficient amends for its aggressive and acquisitive behaviour in the middle of the 20th century, and that Japan plays down the extent of its wrongdoing.