China's top leaders host the first summit talks Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is making his first foreign visit since taking office on Sept. 26, and described it as a "turning point" in declining China-Japan relations.
"Your ongoing visit is serving as a turning point in the China-Japan relations and I hope it would also serve as a new starting point for the improvement and development of bilateral ties," Chinese President Hu Jintao told Abe.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave a red-carpet welcome for Abe's visit on Sunday afternoon, which was honored by a 19-gun cannon salute, before holding talks with the 52-year-old new Japanese prime minister.
"Recently, China and Japan reached a consensus on overcoming the political obstacle affecting bilateral relationship and promoting friendly and cooperative relationship, which comes up with the prime minister's visit, opening 'a window of hope'," said Premier Wen.
China-Japan relations soured over former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's persistent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese class-A war criminals of the World War II are honored among the country's war dead.
Abe is the first Japanese leader visiting China in five years.
President Hu said China-Japan relations faced difficulties because an "individual Japanese leader" kept visiting the war shrine. "That was not what we are willing to see," Hu said.
"I hope the stalemate in Chinese-Japanese relations will come to an end and I believe this visit will turn a new leaf for Chinese-Japanese ties," Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo said.
China's stance has been consistent with regard to China-Japan relations.
"China and Japan must look at and handle bilateral relations from strategic and long-term perspectives, follow the goal of peaceful coexistence, generation-to-generation friendship, reciprocal cooperation and common development so as to push forward bilateral ties," said Hu.
Hu said in March this year that the difficult situation in China-Japan relationship was not caused by the Chinese side or the Japanese people. The major obstacle in China-Japan relationship was Japanese leader's insistence on visiting the shrine.
Abe, in talks with Premier Wen, said he believes the future of Japan-China relations will have "no cloud", and he is ready to further the dialogue between the leaders of the two countries.
Japan-China relations are one of the most important bilateral relations, said Abe, adding that Japan will continue to honor the three political documents to develop bilateral ties.
Abe said Japan imposed great damages and sufferings on the Asian people in the past, and it is Japan's fixed policy on sticking to a peaceful development path on the basis of the deep introspection of the history.
Abe reiterated that Japan will, in accordance with the joint statement, adhere to a one-China policy, and not support "two Chinas", "one China, one Taiwan" and "Taiwan independence". It opposes any unilateral change of the status quo across the Taiwan Straits.
In a joint press communique issued Sunday, China and Japan agreed that the exchanges and dialogue is of importance to the healthy development of bilateral relations.
"The Japanese side invites Chinese leaders to visit Japan, the Chinese side expresses thanks and agrees in principle," the communique says.
"If Abe's visit helps resume top-level talks between China and Japan, it will be beneficial to rein in falling bilateral relations and promote future relations between the two Asian countries, " said Liu Jiangyong, a Japan expert in Tsinghua University.
Xu Dunxin, who was Chinese ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1998, was "prudently optimistic" about the prospects of China-Japan relations. He said Abe's visit cannot resolve all the problems in bilateral ties as they are complicated and protracted.
But Abe's visit will open a channel for top leaders of the two countries to communicate and exchange views, and lay groundwork for further discussions, Xu said.