Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao (
The meeting was to take place yesterday evening along the sidelines of a summit for Asian and African leaders in Jakarta, said Akira Chiba, a spokesman for Koizumi's delegation.
"The prime minister said they will talk about friendship and cooperation, which are the key to prosperity of the region," Chiba told reporters. "We were very eager to meet each other and we are happy that it's happening."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan (
"The most important point is bilateral relations. That will be the main theme of the talks between the two leaders," Kong said.
"We attach emphasis on developing neighboring, friendly and cooperative relations with Japan," he said. "We hope leaders of the two countries can ... eliminate the negative impacts created by Japan's erroneous actions so that Sino-Japanese relations can move forward smoothly on a healthy foundation."
Relations between the two Asian powers plunged to a three-decade low, with massive anti-Japanese protests erupting in several Chinese cities in recent weeks over Tokyo's handling of its wartime atrocities in new junior high school textbooks and its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
At the start of the summit Friday, Koizumi apologized for his country's World War II aggression in an apparent bid to defuse tensions with China, expressing "deep remorse."
Although the statement broke no new ground, it was a clear attempt to reverse the worst erosion of ties between Tokyo and Beijing since diplomatic relations were established in 1972.
"In the past, Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," Koizumi said at the opening ceremony for the summit in Jakarta, conveying Tokyo's "heartfelt apology" for its conquests.
"Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility," he said.
Delegates at the Asian-African summit welcomed the talks between Hu and Koizumi, saying the rift between the economic powerhouses could impact regional stability.
"There is a need for China and Japan to keep on talking as any tension between them is not going to help the stability and political climate in our region," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters. Syed Hamid said Koizumi's apology should be followed up "by some action hopefully."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he believed Koizumi's statement had been received well throughout the region.
"It has set the stage for [yesterday's] meeting. I hope it will also help facilitate the discussions and understanding that they both seek," Annan said. "These are two mature nations that have wise leaders and I hope that between them they will get relations back on track."
At least 12 million Chinese citizens died in Japan's assault on their nation in the 1930s and 1940s. Japan, an ally of Nazi Germany, conquered much of East Asia before its forces surrendered in August 1945, and memories of its brutal rule are still fresh in many countries.