TOKYO/JAKARTA - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an Asia-Africa summit in Indonesia on Wednesday, a Japanese government official said, the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the Asian rivals.
Sino-Japanese ties have chilled in recent years due to feuds over the two neighbours' wartime past as well as territorial rows and regional rivalry. A meeting on Wednesday between the two leaders could promote a cautious rapprochement that began when Abe and Xi met at a summit in Beijing late last year.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhide Suga told reporters earlier that he hoped Abe and Xi would meet in Jakarta although precise details of the encounter had not been decided.
A Japanese government official, however, told Reuters the two would meet.
China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Abe is set to speak at the Jakarta summit, remarks that will be watched for hints about whether he wants to dilute past apologies over World War Two. Such a dilution would not sit well with China, Japan's war-time enemy and main regional rival.
A Japanese government source has said that Abe, who returned to power in 2012, would express remorse over the war in Jakarta but media said he would not apologise.
Memories of Japan's past military aggression run deep in China 70 years after the end of World War Two and Beijing has repeatedly urged Japan to face up to history.
Some experts, however, say China has decided the time is ripe for rapprochement.
As the Jakarta conference got underway, Indonesian President Joko Widodo was flanked by Xi and Abe for a group leaders' photo. The two remained on either side of Widodo when they sat and watched an Indonesian traditional dance troupe perform.
Abe's speech in Jakarta will be followed by a speech to the US Congress next week and a statement in August marking the anniversary of the end of World War Two.
Abe has said he will uphold past government apologies over the war, but wants to issue a forward-looking statement in his own words - raising concerns he intends to water down Japan's previous comments.