Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, left, shake hands ahead of their meeting in Tokyo. Image Credit: AP

Tokyo: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was due in Tokyo on Sunday for a visit seen as a sign of a gradual thaw between the Asian rivals, amid flurries of diplomacy over North Korea.

Shortly after his arrival, Wang will meet his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono with their talks expected to touch on key subjects such as economic relations, territorial disputes in the East China Sea, and ways to push North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, Japanese officials have said.

Kono met Wang in China in January when he became the first Japanese foreign minister to visit the country in nearly two years.

“I hope that we will be able to discuss what Japan and China can work together on in the international arena, not just bilateral issues,” Kono told reporters on Friday.

“Of course, the North Korean issue will surely come up in the meeting,” he said.

The visit by Wang, a veteran Japan handler who had served as an ambassador to Tokyo, comes as the world’s second and third largest economies attempt to ease tension, caused by longstanding disputes over maritime claims and Japan’s wartime legacy.

His visit is also seen as paving a way towards Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wish to host Chinese Premier Li Keqiang next month for a trilateral summit including South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Such a meeting, Tokyo hopes, would lead to a long awaited exchange of state visits between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Tokyo also hopes to expand its exchanges with China to stay relevant in increasing international efforts to engage with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

China has demonstrated its significant influence over its reclusive ally with Xi hosting Kim and his wife in Beijing.

South Korea’s Moon and US President Donald Trump are also preparing for separate, direct talks with Kim, leaving Abe to continue asserting a “maximum pressure” campaign against the North.

Abe, who is due to meet with Trump in Florida on Tuesday to discuss North Korea, may also meet with Wang.

Wang, who will be in Tokyo until Tuesday, will also participate in the fourth China-Japan High-level Economic Dialogue.