Xi Jinping ran into Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G20 meeting currently taking place in St Petersburg, how you interpret their exchange is largely dependent on how positive you’re feeling about contemporary Sino-Japanese relations.
Reuters reports that the two leaders “shook hands”:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands and exchanged words politely on Thursday on the sidelines of a G20 summit meeting, a Japanese official said, in an unexpected show of cordiality amid strained ties.
It was not divulged what was said between Abe and Xi, but a Japanese government official said the contact took place shortly before G20 leaders began their main session and the two met for about four to five minutes and spoke through interpreters.
This might not seem like much, but hours before their informal meeting, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang was suggesting that Xi would give Abe the silent treatment due to the latter’s refusal to meet “China’s reasonable proposals” on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.
Xinhua describes the discussion between the two leaders as an “encounter”, as if Xi and Abe found themselves side-by-side at the urinals and had to make polite conversations.
Xi expounded China’s principled stance [on the Diaoyus] and pointed out that China-Japan ties are facing grave difficulties, which “we are unwilling to see.”
The Chinese side is willing to further advance the China-Japan strategic ties of mutual benefit on the basis of the four Chinese-Japanese political documents, Xi said.
Xi stressed that Japan should correctly deal with such sensitive issues as the Diaoyu Islands and history in line with the spirit of facing history squarely and looking forward to the future so as to seek a way to properly manage differences and address the problems.
For his part, Abe has consistently said that he would be willing to meet his Chinese counterpart to discus territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Though Abe is nothing if not contradictory about improving Sino-Japanese relations, that or he just likes poking the bear.
[Image credit: @csis_er]