By Xinhua writer Shang Jun
BEIJING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met briefly Thursday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The polite encounter in a VIP room for summit participants was the first face-to-face contact between the leaders of the two countries since the Japanese government rebuffed Beijing's warning and nationalized the Diaoyu Islands, the inherent territory of China, in September last year.
Relations between the two East Asian neighbors have since soured.
Despite repeated calls from the Abe administration for a bilateral summit to repair the strained ties, Beijing has shown no interest in the overtures due to Tokyo's lack of sincerity.
While extending an olive branch, Japan has never stopped making offensive remarks and provocative moves that destroy the mood for dialogue.
In the latest move, a hawkish Abe broke with two decades of tradition by omitting any expression of remorse for Japan's past aggression in Asia on the 68th anniversary of its World War II surrender, a disturbing sign for its neighbors, including China, which suffered atrocities at the hands of Japanese invaders.
Tokyo's continuous denial of history and hardline position on the territorial dispute have effectively prevented any talks from being meaningful.
A polite encounter may be a good start, and it shows Beijing's willingness to bring its relations with Japan back on the right track, but whether that can happen still rests with Tokyo.
It is better for the doer to undo what he has done. It was Japan that triggered the "grave difficulties" in bilateral relations, so it should be Japan that takes the initiative to break the stalemate.
If Japan is sincere in its call for talks to improve ties, it has to go beyond words and take real action to win back trust from its neighbor and create the right atmosphere.
Talking one way and acting in another is certainly the wrong way to go.
Without the right attitude toward its war-time history and the good faith to resolve the territorial dispute through negotiations, Japan is supplying no basis for the improvement of ties.
For the benefit of both countries and the region at large, it is up to Japan to make the right and responsible choice.