There was an awkward air as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time in 4 years to have high-level security talks. As representatives of two countries that have historically had animosity between them, it was weird to see the formalities (shaking hands, bowing). The meeting, taking place in Tokyo, comes ahead of a trilateral summit with South Korea this Saturday. China believes Japan has still not properly atoned for war crimes and aggression in World War Two, specifically with the occupation of the Chinese mainland.
Last time these two Asian countries met in 2011, a geopolitical problem dominated the conversation. Back then, the relationship was tense over the patrol of the seas that separate the two.
At present, there is a real concern that Japanese and Chinese maritime vessels-accidental or deliberately-will run into each other in the disputed waters around a series of islands in the East China Sea (known as Senkaku by Japan and called Diaoyu in China). Adding to the confusion, the small country of Taiwan says it has claims to the row of islands as well.
Thursday’s session is seen as a continuation of an airing out between Japan and China that has improved relations in recent months.