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China’s Xi, Japan’s Abe hold landmark meeting after awkward handshake

With an awkward handshake, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held formal talks on Monday for the first time since the two leaders took office, a breakthrough in efforts to improve ties between the Asian rivals.

Television footage showed Abe waiting for Xi to greet him at Beijing`s Great Hall of the People, a departure from usual protocol in which the Chinese leader is on hand waiting for a guest. Xi was unsmiling and stiff as the two shook hands and he did not speak to Abe when they first met.

China and Japan, the world`s second- and third-largest economies, have rowed bitterly in the past two years over disputed islands, regional rivalry and the legacy of Japan`s wartime occupation of China.

The meeting between Abe and Xi came after top diplomats agreed last week to work on improving ties and signalled willingness to put their rival claims over the islands on the back burner.

“This is a first step toward improving bilateral relations, returning to the core of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests,” Abe told reporters after the meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders gathering.

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