Japan's Shinzo Abe heads to Beijing, eyeing first summit with Xi Jinping

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Tokyo, Nov 9: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday flew to Beijing, where he is expected to hold his first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping after presiding over two years of animosity between Asia's biggest economies.

"I want to improve Japan-China relations," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport.

"For a summit (with Xi), the final arrangements still need to be made. But if it is to take place, I would like to give my message that Japan and China -- responsible for the international community's peace and stability -- develop their bilateral ties... as well as starting a maritime communication mechanism to avoid accidental collisions."

The meeting with Xi would take place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering in Beijing, which culminates in a two-day summit of leaders from 21 member-economies starting Monday.

Abe heads to Beijing for APEC after Japan and China reached an accord on Friday to tone down tensions over territorial and historical disputes that had fuelled concerns of outright conflict.

Tokyo has long been pressing for a meeting. But Beijing has resisted, with the two sides locked in a row over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands -- which China calls the Diaoyus -- and also still at odds over World War II history.

Ahead of Abe's departure, the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers held their first formal talks in more than two years on Saturday on the sidelines of APEC.

The talks between Wang Yi and Fumio Kishida were the first at such a level since September 2012, just before the territorial dispute escalated with Japan's nationalisation of the islands.

Since then, Chinese vessels and aircraft have regularly approached the islands, with Japan's coastguard in hot pursuit.

In the accord between the two announced Friday, each used only their own name for the islands but said they would set up a "crisis management mechanism" to keep the situation under control.

The agreement was widely seen as setting the stage for a summit between Xi and Abe, though no official announcement has yet been made.

PTI

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