The foreign ministers of Japan and China agreed Thursday that the two nations will maintain close communication "at all levels," the Japanese government said, as they have been exploring how to mend bilateral ties that often become tense.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also aired "serious concern" over intensifying Chinese military activities near Japan, including those with Russia, during 50-minute phone talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang, adding that Japanese public opinion on Beijing is "extremely severe," according to the Foreign Ministry.

It was the first conversation between the two foreign ministers since Qin, a former ambassador to the United States, took the post in late December, succeeding Wang Yi.

Combined photo shows Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. (L) and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. (Kyodo)

Hayashi and Qin pledged to work together toward the realization of "constructive and stable relations," the ministry said, at a time when the bilateral relationship remains precarious over issues such as the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Tokyo-controlled, Beijing-claimed uninhabited islets are called Diaoyu by China.

The Japanese minister underscored "the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait" while requesting that China soon lift its import ban on Japanese food items imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the ministry said.

Qin said he hopes that the Japanese side will be "cautious" in its words and deeds regarding major issues such as bilateral history and Taiwan, and stop provocations by right-wing forces on the issue of Diaoyu, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

He also said China and the international community are seriously concerned about Japan's decision to discharge "nuclear-polluted water" from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean in spring 2023, the Chinese ministry added.

Meanwhile, as this year marks the 45th anniversary of the 1978 bilateral Peace and Friendship Treaty, Qin said China is willing to take this opportunity with Japan to jointly review the spirit of the treaty and promote the improvement and development of China-Japan relations on the right track, according to the ministry.

Under the 1978 pact, signed six years after the normalization of diplomatic relations after World War II, the East Asian neighbors agreed to develop a relationship of "perpetual peace and friendship."

Hayashi and Qin spoke days after the Chinese government resumed issuing ordinary visas for Japanese citizens on Sunday, after suspending them in early January to protest Japan's tightening of entry conditions for travelers from China over fear of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Qin demanded that the strict measures by Tokyo be eased, and Hayashi answered that Japan will respond with flexibility while taking into account the COVID-19 infection situation in China, according to the Japanese ministry.

The two also exchanged views on the war in Ukraine launched by Russia, the Japanese ministry said without elaboration.

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