A Chinese foreign ministry official refused to confirm a Japanese newspaper story that President Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shook hands at a summit in Bali, calling the report “meaningless.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was asked three times at a daily media briefing in Beijing today if Xi and Abe met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali. Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported they shook hands yesterday.
“What I have seen is some Japanese media reporting that President Xi had a handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Abe on the sidelines of the APEC leaders meeting,” Hua said. “Don’t you think the relevant reports are meaningless?”
A handshake between Xi and Abe at APEC would mark a small signal of rapprochement after months of hostility over a territorial dispute. Japan’s purchase last year of three of five islands in the East China Sea claimed by both sides posed one of the most severe tests in the relationship since diplomatic ties were established in 1972.
No formal bilateral summit has been held between Japan and China for more than a year. Abe and Xi shook hands and spoke briefly during a Group of 20 summit in Russia last month.
Asked a second time about the handshake, Hua said China hadn’t delivered “any report on the issue that you mentioned.” When she was asked about it a third time, Hua said Japan needed to “show sincerity” and remove obstacles to improved relations. She said China has been committed to solving the two countries’ problems via dialogue.
“The Japanese side is only playing up these kinds of reports,” Hua said. “I think the Japanese side should stop putting the cart before the horse.”