China said on Wednesday it will extend all possible courtesies to Japan at next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing, but gave no indication it would agree to a leaders' get-together.
Expectations have been growing in Japan for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for an ice-breaking chat next month on the sidelines of the gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders.
A one-on-one meeting would be a symbolic breakthrough in ties between the world's second- and third-biggest economies, which have turned frigid in the past two years over a territorial row, regional rivalry and the bitter legacy of Japan's wartime occupation of China.
Asked about the possibility of an Abe-Xi meeting in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that it was China's duty to treat its guests well.
“China is the host, and there is a custom in China, which is that visitors are all guests. We will do all the necessary honors for our guests,” Wang told a conference.
“As for the problems and obstacles which are affecting the normal development of Sino-Japanese relations, this is objectively a reality that cannot be avoided,” added Wang, a former Chinese ambassador to Japan.
“We hope that the Japanese leader and Japan can face up to the existence of the problem and show sincerity to resolve it,” he said, without elaborating.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday met Xi at Beijing's Great Hall of the People as part of a delegation from the Boao Forum, which China likes to tout as its answer to Davos.
Xi and Fukuda shook hands, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, without saying what they said to each other.
Fukuda went to China late in July on a “stealth mission” to broker a rapprochement and convey Abe's call for dialogue, Japanese media have reported. During the visit, Xi voiced concern over two-way ties but showed his desire to mend them, the Nikkei business daily said, citing sources on both sides.