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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has begun a visit to Japan - described as a major step forward in improving frosty relations, as Tokyo tries to stay involved in a flurry of worldwide diplomacy over North Korea, a report in the South China Morning Post said on Sunday.

China showed its significant influence over its reclusive ally when Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife in Beijing last month.

"We would like to co-operate further towards the common goal between Japan and China, of establishing a complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea", Kono said as the two began talks in Tokyo.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with his Japanese counterpart today in what will be the first high-level economic dialogue between the two countries in almost a decade.

Tokyo hopes such a meeting will lead to a long-awaited exchange of state visits between Abe and Xi.

Wang told reporters after meeting with Kono that the Chinese side "confirmed Japan's desire to improve its bilateral ties with China". Now, China has an added incentive to fix ties with Japan, after a series of surprises from Trump on North Korea, Taiwan and trade sanctions.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is set to visit Japan next month for a trilateral summit with Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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The time is ripe for the two nations to improve relations to mark the 40th anniversary of their 1978 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, both ministers said.

Kono told Wang that true improvement in bilateral ties can not be achieved without stability in the East China Sea, where China has challenged Japan's sovereignty over uninhabited islets.

Since the Japanese government purchased most of the Senkaku Islands from Japanese owner in 2012, China has frequently sent its ships into Japanese territorial waters around them, raising fears that unintended conflict between Japan and China could be sparked in the area.

They also discussed the vision each country has for the wider region, namely Japan's "free and open Indo-Pacific" strategy and China's "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure megaproject.

Wang said any parties, including Japan, welcome the recent important changes on the peninsula.

Kono said that he hoped the first economic dialogue between the countries in eight years would be a "fruitful discussion".

Wang on Monday holds high-level talks with Kono and other Japanese Cabinet ministers.

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