China and Japan have taken the first diplomatic step in easing tensions over a bitter territorial dispute that has damaged trade between the two countries and threatened to spill over into military conflict.
Xi Jinping, China's new Communist party leader, and Natsuo Yamaguchi, a senior member of Japan's ruling coalition, on Friday held the first high-level meeting between the neighbours since the dispute over a group of Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea erupted in September.
"We should, like the old generation of leaders in our two countries did, show national responsibility, political wisdom and historical courage," said Mr Xi. He was referring to the decision in 1972 by Beijing and Tokyo to shelve disputes and normalise bilateral relations.
The conciliatory tone from the man who is expected to become president in March raises hopes for a new diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis over the islands, which are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and claimed by both.
Mr Yamaguchi, head of New Komeito, the coalition partner of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic party, gave Mr Xi a letter from Shinzo Abe in which the new prime minister expressed his willingness to work towards a "mutually beneficial strategic relationship".
"That senior leaders can meet is a turning point," said Xu Yiping, director of the Japan Research Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University. "That Mr Yamaguchi could come shows Japan's sincerity in wanting to solve problems. And that Xi Jinping could see him shows the same sincerity on his side."
He added that he would now expect the two sides to come up with more concrete steps to lower tension.