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China, Japan Hold First Security Talks in 4 Years

Japan's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama, left, and China's Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao shake hands before their meeting in Tokyo Thursday, March 19, 2015.

China and Japan have held high-level security talks for the first time in four years, another step toward mending ties that were severely damaged over a territorial dispute.

The deputy foreign ministers of both countries met Thursday in Tokyo for a day of talks, with both sides expressing hope for continued improvement in relations.

"Ties between Japan and China have been making a gradual advance since last year's summit meeting but there still are concerns over each other's security policy," said Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama. "The best way to dissolve concerns is to hold direct dialogue."

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao also stressed the importance of dialogue, "as the two sides are important neighbors and regional powers."

The talks, which also included defense officials, had been held regularly since 1993 but were canceled in 2012 after Japan nationalized a group of islands claimed by both countries.

The incident led to a serious deterioration in relations and resulted in both sides sending fighter jets and patrol ships near the islands in attempt to assert control over the area.

Ties have also been strained over Japan's concern at China's growing military strength, while Beijing is frustrated at what it sees as Tokyo's unwillingness to repent for its imperialist past.

The traditional foes took a step toward thawing cold ties in November, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met for the first time and agreed to a series of crisis-management measures.