Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to a bilateral meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, 2017. Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun

China’s foreign minister, in a notable diplomatic signal, told his Japanese counterpart on Sunday that Beijing hopes to work with Tokyo to establish more cordial relations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who was visiting Beijing, that he hoped the two countries could move on from a series of disputes, some dating back to before World War II.

The Asahi Shimbun noted that Japan and China have sought to improve ties, mostly recently when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in November on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Vietnam.

Wang is said to have told Kono that his trip to Beijing, coming so early in the year, indicated Japan’s strong wish to improve bilateral relations and that such an improvement would benefit both nations.

“At present, the Sino-Japanese relations are at a crucial stage. There is positive progress, but many disturbances and obstacles remain,” Wang said, but the minister also noted comments from Abe indicating a desire to improve relations.

“China-Japan ties always sail against the current, either forging ahead or drifting backward,” Wang told reporters before meeting with Kono.

“We hope that the Japanese side will neither relax in its efforts nor fall back, and turn the spoken statements into concrete actions.”

Kono also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and senior foreign policy adviser State Councilor Yang Jiechi during his weekend visit. Kono noted that Tokyo and Beijing share a major responsibility in safeguarding the stability and prosperity of Asia and the world at large.

“Not only do we need to manage our bilateral relations, but we also need to work together to deal with issues facing the entire globe, in particular the issue of North Korea,” Kono said. “We desire to extend mutual cooperation between our two countries in working towards resolving this issue.”