Abe said that he believed the neighbours have taken a significant step forwards and that there should be more frequent dialogue between the two.

Relations had soured against the backdrop of disputed maritime boundaries and claims of insensitivity by Japanese leaders visiting contentious temples that are viewed by some as celebrating war criminals.

Abe told an Apec news conference that for the sake of the region it was important for Japan and China to strive for a “mutually beneficial” relationship that focuses on their strategic interests.