Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed Thursday on the importance of "pursuing dialogue" between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, as they held telephone talks to share details about the recent summit between the United States and China, official said.
Abe and Obama also affirmed the need to ensure "stability" in the East China Sea where the islands are located, according to the White House. A Japanese government official quoted the prime minister as saying that "the doors are always open for discussions" between Japan and China.
During the roughly 30-minute talks, Abe and Obama pledged to keep working "together closely toward the elimination" of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the White House said.
The leaders also took up the issue of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea decades ago, with Obama expressing his support for Tokyo's stance of seeking to resolve the matter, according to the Japanese official.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga had told a press conference Thursday morning that the telephone talks would be a gesture on the U.S. side "to give considerations" to its long-time ally Japan.
The talks came as Obama was quoted by a U.S. official as telling Chinese President Xi Jinping at the weekend summit in California that "the parties should seek to deescalate, not escalate" the dispute over the Senkakus, administered by Japan but claimed by China.
Obama called for "conversations about this through diplomatic channels and not through actions out of the East China Sea," and Xi responded by saying that China will resolutely protect the integrity of its sovereignty and territory.
Tokyo has maintained there is no territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, and Washington has said its security pact with Japan covers the islands.
Tensions have mounted since Tokyo purchased some of the Senkaku Islands last year from a Japanese individual. Chinese ships have been repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters near the islands, keeping Japanese authorities on alert.
On the economic front, Obama said the United States hopes to welcome Japan's participation in U.S.-led negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership "as early as possible."
The two leaders also agreed to work closely at the upcoming summit of the Group of Eight nations in Northern Ireland, according to the White House.