The leaders of the two largest economies in Asia, China’s Xi Jinping and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, reaffirmed on Thursday their desire to improve the battered relations between their countries in their first bilateral meeting in three years.

Their meeting, which lasted just over half an hour, was held on the eve of the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bangkok (Thailand), the last major regional meeting of a hectic diplomatic week for Asia.

The intention to mend ties was already seen from the beginning. Before holding talks behind closed doors, Xi expressed his willingness to work with Japan to maintain a stable relationship. “Both countries are important to Asia and the world, and have many common interests and space for cooperation,” she noted.

For his part, Kishida stressed that both are great powers that have the responsibility of defending peace and security in the region and the world, so it is important to “accelerate” the resolution of their differences. “Today’s meeting is a good start for a dialogue towards a constructive and stable relationship,” said the Japanese.

This meeting is part of the diplomatic campaign deployed this week at other summits such as Asean (Cambodia) or the G20 (Indonesia) to loosen the rigid ties between the Asian giant on the one hand and the United States and its allies on the other.

Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have suffered in recent years given Japan’s alignment with Washington-led efforts to counter Chinese regional influence through strategic political and military alliances such as the Aukus (US, UK, and Australia). ) or the Quad (USA, India, Japan and Australia). Even so, the Japanese country usually tries to maintain a certain balance to avoid irritating its neighbor and that this harms its exchanges with its number one trading partner too much.

The cordial tone of today’s meeting echoes that of Monday’s meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden, in which they agreed to restart communications stalled since the speaker’s controversial summer visit to Taiwan. of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

In this regard, Xi said in a speech in Bangkok on Thursday that “the Asia-Pacific region is nobody’s backyard and must not become an arena for competition between great powers.”

During his closed-door discussion, the Japanese prime minister explained to his Chinese counterpart his dispute over the Senkaku Islands, administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing (which calls them Diaoyu). The incursions of Chinese ships in nearby waters is one of the main sources of diplomatic friction between the two. “We agreed to strengthen communication,” Kishida explained to reporters after the meeting.

The Japanese also expressed to Xi his concern about the growing tension in the Taiwan Strait and reiterated “the importance of maintaining peace and stability” in that area.

They also addressed the high number and pace of North Korea’s missile tests this year, while rumors continue that the regime would be ready to carry out its seventh nuclear test, the first since 2017. “We had a frank and in-depth conversation” , summarized Kishida, who valued the appointment as “a good start to build a relationship.”

This Thursday was the first summit between Japan and China since September 2019, when Xi met then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead in the street this summer. They also marked the first talks between Kishida and Xi since their phone call in October last year, shortly after Kishida took office.

Xi and Kishida will be two of the main protagonists of the APEC summit that starts tomorrow, Friday, in the Thai capital. Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has already decided not to attend the two previous meetings in Cambodia and Indonesia, nor President Biden, who returned to the US and whose place will be occupied by Vice President Kamala Harris, will not be at the meeting. .