BEIJING — The leaders of China and Japan met for the first time in two years Monday after a period of increased hostility between the Asian rivals. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shared an awkward handshake on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, officials said. The meeting is the first between Xi and Abe since they took office.
"Leaders [from the two nations] met and exchanged views frankly," Japan's chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told Reuters. "I think there was big progress in freshly improving the economic and various relationships between Japan and China." Xi told Abe "historical issues concern the feelings of more than 1.3 billion Chinese people" and urged him "to continue the path of peaceful development," China's foreign ministry said according to the news agency. Albert del Rosario, foreign affairs secretary for key U.S. ally the Philippines, told NBC News: "Any initiative that promotes peace, stability and security is beneficial for all countries in the region." China and Japan’s relationship has come under increased stress in recent years over a cluster of disputed islands. Beijing also expressed disquiet at Abe’s visit last year to Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates the county’s war dead including convicted war criminals.
— Eric Baculinao, Arata Yamamoto and Alexander Smith
Reuters contributed to this report