Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Thursday to work for stabilizing bilateral ties and expressed their opposition to any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, in a veiled counter to Russia's threat to possibly use them against the neighbor it has invaded.

After their first in-person talks in Bangkok, Kishida said he also conveyed to Xi Japan's "serious concern" about Chinese attempts to undermine Tokyo's control over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, as well as Beijing's firing of ballistic missiles near Taiwan that fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone in August.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their talks in Bangkok on Nov. 17, 2022. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

"We agreed to closely communicate at various levels, including the leaders' level," Kishida told reporters after the 45-minute meeting, which occurred on the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit starting Friday in the Thai capital.

The first summit between the leaders of the two Asian neighbors in roughly three years became a "good start" of a dialogue aimed at building "constructive and stable" bilateral ties, he added.

China expressed its opposition to any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although it has refrained from condemning Russia's invasion of the East European nation and is not joining Western nations in imposing sanctions on Moscow.

In the talks, part of which was open to the media, Xi said China and Japan share many common interests and space for cooperation and expressed hope that the two neighbors can build relations that "meet the requirements of the new era."

Xi stressed "major issues of principle" such as Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island Beijing regards as its own, must be "properly handled" and said China does not accept anyone's interference in its internal affairs under any pretext, according to state-run media.

On maritime and territorial disputes, Xi said it is necessary to abide by the principled consensus that has been reached, show political wisdom and take responsibility to properly manage differences, China Central Television said.

Kishida said he agreed with Xi to boost communications on security, resume a hotline between the two countries' defense officials at an early date and coordinate a visit to China by Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

The premier said he expressed Japan's serious concerns over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and urged China to address the matter in the U.N. Security Council and other venues.

Kishida said he also sought Beijing's support in resolving the issue of Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese nationals.

The two leaders agreed to promote cooperation in such areas as environment protection, energy-saving, health care and nursing services and resume bilateral high-level economic dialogue as well as a people-to-people and cultural exchange program that have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two leaders did not touch on Xi's Japan visit as a state guest, which had been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, a senior Japanese official said.

Kishida also requested that China soon lift its import ban on Japanese food items imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Tokyo and Beijing have been at odds over the Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls Diaoyu, with Chinese vessels repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters around the islands.

The Kishida-Xi talks also came amid cross-strait tensions as China conducted large-scale military drills around Taiwan following a visit to Taipei by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August. During the exercises, five ballistic missiles fell into Japan's EEZ.

Xi started a norm-breaking third five-year term as the ruling Communist Party chief in October. During a summit Monday with U.S. President Joe Biden in Bali, the Chinese leader stressed that the Taiwan question is "the first red line that must not be crossed."

In September, Japan and China marked the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties.

The Bangkok meeting was Kishida's first dialogue with Xi since the two held phone talks in October last year, shortly after the Japanese leader took office.

The two countries' leaders last met face-to-face in December 2019, with then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holding talks with Xi in Beijing.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and his wife Yuko wave before leaving the Indonesian resort island of Bali for Thailand on Nov. 17, 2022, to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)

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