Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's national security adviser Shotaro Yachi and China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi agreed Friday to cooperate to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said, with inter-Korean ties apparently improving.
During their talks in Beijing, Yachi and Chinese State Councilor Yang also confirmed the importance of building the East China Sea into a sea of "peace, cooperation and friendship," the Japanese ministry said.
The meeting between Yachi and Yang, regarded as a key person in charge of "Great Power Diplomacy" under President Xi Jinping's leadership, was held as the two Koreas have gotten closer following Pyongyang's decision to join the Pyeongchang Olympics in the South.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry kept mum about how Yachi and Yang evaluated the recent moves by Seoul and Pyongyang.
China, which is believed to have influence over North Korea as its main economic lifeline, has called on North Korea and the United States to engage in dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japan, meanwhile, is concerned that Pyongyang is trying to weaken international economic sanctions against it by cozying up to South Korea and to buy more time to advance its missile and nuclear technologies, warning against North Korea's "smile diplomacy."
Abe's government has pledged to put maximum pressure on North Korea in tandem with the United States and South Korea, as Pyongyang has still expressed eagerness to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland.
The visit by Yachi, who heads the secretariat of the National Security Council, comes almost a month after Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing and proposed resuming reciprocal visits by the two countries' leaders.
China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Yang as telling Yachi that he hopes both sides will work together toward restoring amicable ties and further developing them.
Yachi and Yang reached agreement to bolster talks between Japan and China at various levels as well as economic cooperation and private-sector exchanges, the ministry added.
Tokyo and Beijing have been mired in a territorial row over the Senkakus, called Diaoyu in China, for years. The dispute escalated particularly after the Japanese government led by then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Abe's predecessor, decided to effectively put them under state control in September 2012.
Relations between Japan and China, however, have been showing signs of improvement despite the lingering territorial dispute, with this year marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of a bilateral friendship treaty.
But it is uncertain whether Japan and China can find ways to resolve the territorial issue in the near future, as Beijing challenges the sovereignty of the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus.
Last month, Kono lodged a protest over the entry of a submerged Chinese submarine into the contiguous zone around Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus, urging Beijing to take preventive steps.
During Friday's talks, Yachi and Yang also had discussions on how to realize a postponed trilateral summit including South Korea, which Tokyo wanted to host last year, according to sources well versed in Sino-Japanese relations.
Yang visited Japan and held talks with Yachi in May last year.