China President Xi meets Japan PM Abe in bid to thaw frigid ties

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing on Nov 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing on Nov 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A Chinese People's Liberation Army honour guard welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A Chinese People's Liberation Army honour guard welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met for formal talks on Monday for the first time since the two leaders took office, a breakthrough in ending a two-year row between Asia's biggest economies over history and territory.

The meeting, which took place in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, came three days after the two countries agreed to work on improving ties and signalled willingness to put their rival claims over disputed islands on the back burner.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, Japan's foreign ministry said.

A one-on-one meeting is a symbolic breakthrough in ties between the two countries which have turned frigid in the past two years over their territorial row, regional rivalry and the bitter legacy of Japan’s wartime occupation of China.Both countries claim ownership of a tiny group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China. The two countries acknowledged on Friday that they held different views on the territorial dispute.