Well, it’s a start.
After years of tensions over disputed territory, disputed history and visits to a certain shrine, China and Japan drew closer to establishing a more functional diplomatic relationship with a handshake on Monday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
As the video above suggests, the encounter was a tad on the chilly side, with Mr. Xi apparently refusing to return his counterpart’s greeting and looking throughout the photo op as if he’d rather be shaking hands with one of the goats that are said to be stripping the aforementioned disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands of their scant vegetation.
As WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi reports, however, a subsequent sit-down between the two leaders appears to have been somewhat more productive:
Speaking to reporters shortly after the meeting, Mr. Abe said, “I believe Japan and China took the first step toward improving our relationship as we go back to the principle of mutually beneficial strategic relations.”
The meeting, in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, lasted just short of 30 minutes. It followed weeks of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations, as officials from Asia’s two biggest economies sought to arrange for Messrs. Abe and Xi to get together on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
…“I am aware that our neighbors in Asia and many countries beyond had been hoping to see dialogue between Japanese and Chinese leaders,” Mr. Abe said. “We were able to respond to such wishes and begin taking steps toward repairing our ties.”
China and Japan had earlier issued a surprise announcement that they planned a gradual resumption of diplomatic and security dialogues, though each side translated the text of the agreement in ways that made it look like the other had folded. That subtle sniping continued on Monday, when China’s official Xinhua news agency emphasized that the meeting between Messrs. Xi and Abe came “at the request of the Japanese side” — a message Mr. Xi’s expression during Monday’s handshake helped reinforce.
It wasn’t the first time onlookers have felt a chilly blast when the prime minister of Japan met China’s president. In November 2010, for example. then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan met then-Chinese President Hu Jintao. The meeting saw a few arms-length handshakes exchanged. Mr. Kan read out his greetings to Mr. Hu from a memo. A Chinese fishing trawler had collided with a Japan coast guard boat that September near disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.