HONG KONG, Nov 10 – The leaders of China and Japan on Monday held their first face-to-face talks since they took office, amid smoldering tensions between the two Asian powers. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the two governments said.
The United States has had to navigate the fraught relationship in recent years between Japan, a key ally, and China, whose regional and global clout is on the rise. Washington has attempted the balancing act of standing by its commitments to Tokyo without antagonizing Beijing. The last formal meeting at this level between China and Japan took place nearly three years ago, in December 2011, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
Since then, relations have dramatically soured, mainly because of the escalation of a bitter territorial dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China’s sudden declaration last year of an Air Defense Identification Zone over a large swath of the East China Sea added to tensions, drawing strong criticism from both Japan and the United States. Diplomatic ties became so bad that the two sides resorted to invoking Voldemort, the fictional villain in the Harry Potter books, in their verbal barbs about each other.